“Elvis” Honors the Legacy of the Rock and Roll Legend with Tom Hanks in the All-Star Cast

Australian director Baz Luhrman (Australia, The Great Gastby) has clearly conceived “Elvis”, a feature film from Warner Bros. which premieres this Thursday in Puerto Rico, as the antithesis of a traditional cinematographic biography. If most of these films are like the equivalent of a silent and inert walk through a museum, the filmmaker’s audiovisual proposal brings a voltage of electricity that is present throughout the film. This not only honors the legacy of Elvis Presley As an artist and icon of popular culture, he helps the production a lot to survive the more conventional sections of the script.

The director and his excellent production team went the extra mile so that, regardless of whether we are on stage with Elvis Presley or in a moment of his private life, the emotional energy of what is being dramatized is tangible for the viewer. As if this were not enough, the director turns all this on the wonderful interpretation of austin butler (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Yoga Hosers”) as the title character. Achieving an Elvis Presley who transcends the details of an imitation while using them at the same time is an almost impossible acting challenge, but Butler manages to capture Presley’s humanity with ease in any of the contexts that the film’s narrative explores.

The most interesting of all turns out to be the moment when the artist has to reconsider his position in popular culture just a decade after being declared a phenomenon for his controversial interpretations of early rock’nroll hits. That the film is given the space to explore Presley’s musical talents expands the impact of the collaboration between Luhrman and his lead actor. Especially since the rest of the script, in particular its last act, travels traditional and predictable terrain.

To undermine this, Luhrman and his co-writers cast Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s handler who famously exploited him and took more than half his fortune, as the story’s narrator. This decision is made even more effective by having Tom Hanks playing this role. The film uses the natural sympathy that Hanks exudes as a performer as Trojan Horse for this character’s more twisted tendencies. The actor fits well with the demands of Luhrman’s particular style, but his instincts to give a more subtle version of this character on two or three occasions turns out to be the film’s jarring note.

Running at two hours and forty minutes, “Elvis” benefits greatly from Baz Luhrman’s directing agility and defiance of the notion of all that is conventional in a biography. Still the last section of the film gets into the repetitive and ends where many other biographies of musical icons end. What never loses its vibrancy is Austin Butler’s performance as Elvis Presley. The scale of this film and the dramatic arc it imposes on it makes his achievement genuinely impressive.

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