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  • Writer's pictureeclectic Stefan

Elvis:”It’s one for the money, two for the show…”

There are people who seek fame, there are people who have fame imposed on them and there are people who are legendary. One name says it all. Elvis. Elvis was and is not only famous but legendary and is known worldwide by one name alone. Elvis. We know him by his name. There can be no other Elvis. The one and only King.

Showman Baz Luhrmann has enshrined him in true Baz style in Elvis, a glittering, bombastic, and extravagant movie in the way that only director Baz Luhrmann can do. Baz, like Elvis, is a supreme showman, sometimes to the point of antagonising his audience. It doesn’t matter what you think of Luhrmann’s film style, he is a distinctive and refreshing presence in the world of cinema.

The opening lines from one of the songs made famous by Elvis, Blue Suede Shoes identify the nature of the protagonists in Elvis.

“Well, it's one for the money, two for the show

Three to get ready now go, cat, go”

Song: Blue Suede Shoes | Songwriter: Carl Perkins

Elvis (Austin Butler), Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) and their mutually shared destructive behaviours are central to the movie. We have Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge), Elvis's mother Gladys (Helen Thomson) and father Vernon (Richard Roxburgh) but it’s all about Elvis the Showman and Colonel Parker the Snowman. Snowman is a carny term similar to “pulling the wool over someone’s eyes”.

from American Entertainment | By Lauren Boisvert | July 4, 2022

Elvis was the definitive showman. He loved music, performing, and his audience. Colonel Parker, on the other hand, was all about the money. If you can source it, Parker would promote it, from t-shirts to Singer sewing machines. There is a key distinction to be made about Colonel Parker. As Baz Luhrmann stated on the red carpet at the launch of Elvis in Sydney, Colonel Parker was not Elvis's manager; he was Elvis's promoter. The distinction may be delicate but it is relevant. Promotion is about organising and selling while a manager deals with the person and their best interests. A manager cares for the person they represent, makes sound financial decisions while also considering their personal wellbeing and their reputation. A promotor sees an opportunity to hustle and make money regardless of the product. A manager would not simply agree for their talent to be used and sold in any way. Unless that person is Colonel Parker.

“Colonel Parker was not Elvis's manager; he was his promoter”

Colonel Parker promoted Elvis in Hollywood in a series of forgettable films with mostly forgettable songs. When Hollywood and the Elvis movies lost their appeal, Parker moved to the next thing that would sell Elvis, his image and his talent without regard to Elvis's wishes, desires or wellbeing. Colonel Parker marketed anything that he could using Elvis's name, reputation and fame. He even promoted a badge that had the words “I Hate Elvis”, because he said that some people will hate Elvis, so they might as well profit from it.

Baz Luhrmann directs Austin Butler (Elvis) & Olivia DeJonge (Priscilla)

Just like there’s one Elvis, there’s only one Baz Luhrmann. Whatever one thinks of Baz Luhrmann, he is, like Elvis, a true showman, who has made his mark through his distinctive cinematic impressions of people and lives just as Elvis's presence erupted on the stage.

Whichever way you see Elvis—the man, the performer, the entertainer, son and husband— Elvis is a complete package. Not because it’s a perfect film or the definitive depiction of Elvis, but because it encompasses and celebrates the essence of Elvis, from the rhinestone glitzy Warner Brothers’ studio WB logo to the tasty end credits.

from The Sydney Morning Herald | By Garry Maddox April 30, 2022

The soundtrack drives the story. Elvis’s energetic and enthusiastic musical performances seem more alive, even the mediocre songs that inhabited his movies. The sound design and soundtrack propel the episodes of his life story that create the man behind the singer. The movie is episodic rather than linear. And Catherine Martin’s mastery of costume design is stunning.

from Harper's Bazaar | By Todd Plummer | June 9, 2022

from The Sydney Morning Herald | By Garry Maddox June 20, 2022

Tom Hanks as Colonel Parker is rubbery, from the fat suit to the dodgy morals. The skill of Luhrmann’s direction is his ability to make us look behind the rubbery fat suit to unveil the moneyman who effectively stemmed Elvis's career and musical dreams. One despises Colonel Parker but, in another sense, we recognise that he is a product of his own undisclosed personal history and survival instinct. He doesn’t deliberately work to destroy Elvis but, in pursuit of his own ends, Elvis becomes collateral damage. Elvis never reaches his dream to travel and tour internationally. Hs initial excitement at creating a full blown musical experience on a huge Las Vegas stage is dragged into submission by Parker’s self interests.

In one poignant and private moment, Colonel Parker says he and Elvis are like one another and depend on one another. Elvis is weighed by guilt around his deceased mother Gladys and failed business manager father Vernon. Elvis was a family man. He shared a true love with Priscilla. Elvis was also dependent on the love of his fans because he didn’t feel the love from Colonel Parker. The tragedy lies in wondering what Elvis could have achieved with his roots in gospel to the raunchy and frenetic hip shaking rock. Even in his darkest moments, Elvis would bolster his emotions by saying he would always have a song to sing. The further tragedy is that we know the story can’t be rewritten to provide a happier ending. This morality tale only ends one way.

“I will always sing a song” Elvis

Baz has presented a human portrait of Elvis—a man of frailty, emotion, desire, hope, love and song—from an icon of American culture to a damaged human soul.

Whatever you think of Luhrmann’s extravagance, Elvis is a masterful impression of Elvis, who thought to himself that he would only be a footnote to the history of popular music. The emptiness of his life was filled with the spirit of song.

Austin Butler’s (left) performance as Elvis (right) is stunning beyond the physical similarities.

As a film making experience and a reflective tragedy about a megastar, Elvis is one of the most impactful films I’ve been affected by this year. Whether you like Baz, like Elvis or dislike both, this is about a tragic set of circumstances that is called life. For better or worse, the end of Elvis and Elvis the movie can’t be changed. And therein lies the most fundamental human tragedy about a man who had dreams but was thwarted by another man who saw opportunities rather than dreams. Both are flawed and both suffered somber endings.

Even when Elvis said that he would always have a song, that didn’t resolve Colonel Parker’s cunning to survive. Whether it was his business manager father Vernon or Colonel Parker, Elvis trusted other people to handle his affairs while he pursued his musical vision.

Unfortunately, people cannot always be relied on to support a creative person’s dreams. It is ironic that one of Elvis's films was titled Follow That Dream.

Baz Luhrmann's Elvis is loud, brash and entertaining, just like Elvis and Baz themselves.

Official Trailer Elvis

FILM EXTRAS Elvis Shakes, Rattles & Rolls


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