Austin Butler dazzles as The King

You can’t help but fall in love with Austin Butler.

The 30-year-old actor, whose main role has been in lousy TV shows like The Carrie Diaries, sings and swings his hips soulfully into our hearts as Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s kaleidoscopic new biopic.

Movie review

Running time: 159 minutes. Rated PG-13 (substance abuse, strong language, suggestive material and smoking). In theatres.

The king is one hell of a job.

Unlike Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, the subject of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Elton John, who got his own movie with “Rocketman,” Presley brings more pop culture baggage than could be stuffed into a million Gracelands.

There’s the Campy Vegas impersonators, the “thank you, thank you” slogan, the white jumpsuit, the late weight gain, and of course, dying in the toilet at age 42.

For such a unique figure in music – still instantly recognizable to teenagers today in a way Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon are not – he is not accorded much dignity.

Elvis often wore the famous white jumpsuit during his long stay in Las Vegas.
Elvis is often remembered for his looks during his longtime residency in Las Vegas.
© Warner Bros./Courtesy of Everett C

Luhrmann’s highly entertaining film and Butler’s sensational performance are determined to correct that mistake. “Elvis,” a film that runs on kerosene and confetti, pays homage to Presley’s innovative spirit, his deep passion for merging blues, country and gospel music, and the intense connection he had with his audiences. Elvis draws inspiration from black musicians like BB King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Little Richard (Alton Mason, Extraordinary).

More broadly, the film is about the unique struggles of being ultra-famous during the social turmoil, increased visibility and rapidly changing mores of the 1950s through the ’70s. The king goes from obscene disturber of the peace to hatred of old people in just two decades.

However, where Luhrmann unsurprisingly excels is in Elvis’ stage performances. As with “Moulin Rouge!”, the Australian director interprets an almost 70-year-old moment with wide-open, modern eyes and a free-roaming sexuality. At an early show before he goes on tour with nice boy Hank Snow, Elvis starts shaking his body and the girls in the crowd scream like they’re blaming witches in The Crucible. You’ll want to shout along with them. . . But please leave your underwear on.

The ladies are wild about Elvis (Austin Butler).
The ladies are wild about Elvis (Austin Butler).
© Warner Bros./Courtesy of Everett C

Hound Dog, Can’t Help Falling in Love, Suspicious Minds, and Blue Suede Shoes, among others, are rowdy and rousing. And Butler and Luhrmann don’t settle for nostalgia with them—they’re electrifying and intrusive.

Elvis is a long film, and most of it is devoted to the pitfalls of fame. He meets Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) while serving abroad in Germany, and Lisa Marie is born. But on tour he sleeps with his wife, takes pills, and has a destructive relationship with his seedy manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), who pushes him to compromise the identity fans love him for.

The villain – in both story and real life – is Hanks as Elvis’ eccentric and opportunistic manager. What the hell was he thinking? The actor, out for a raid, puts on a head-scratching voice, as if Forrest Gump meets Rumpelstiltskin, perhaps to complement Parker’s mysterious backstory. Thing is, Parker has never sounded so ridiculous, and Hanks’ Anna Delvey Take is distracting. Whenever he was on screen, I always thought of that nonsensical brogue.

Austin Butler is a hit as The King.
Austin Butler is a cracker than the king.

At least until Butler came back into the building. The actor grows with subtlety and believability from 1955 to 1977, never seeming trapped behind prosthetic limbs or aided by computer-generated imagery. Nor does he succumb to a silly impression. He grabs us by the collar and won’t let go. Being as good as Elvis will either explode his career or push it down a mouse hole.

Luhrmann, on the other hand, is the coriander of modern directors. You either spit it out or pack your salsa full. I say give me mass. He is ebullient and spectacular when most of his contemporaries are in comas. His movie is bloated, yes, but 2 hours and 40 minutes of our lives is better spent with Elvis Presley than with the Season 4 finale of Stranger Things.
Also, only Lurhmann knew what Elvis’ legacy had to be in 2022 – everything got messed up.

https://nypost.com/2022/06/23/elvis-review-austin-butler-dazzles-as-the-king/ Austin Butler dazzles as The King

Emma Bowman

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