Elvis ★★★★

If most biopics have a tendency to reduce their complex subjects to the events in their lives in an attempt to create flashy and easy-to-consume Wikipedia entries, Elvis has nothing to reduce. Behind Elvis the icon is… Elvis the icon. This is a man whose entire life revolved only around singing and being on stage. A man whose entire persona came from a culture not his own. A man who, the emptier and more powerless he felt, became the more bombastic and excessive. A man who, years after his death, is still most associated with Vegas, the place of his imprisonment.

Elvis the biopic mirrors Elvis the icon, in that a story that’s as barebones as can be is dipped in style and glitz and glitter and makes up for the complexity it lacks with bombast and excess. But that’s not a fault. If anything, it’s a feature because Elvis uses the bombast and excess to create a tragic portrait of its subject that feels all-encompassing: from childhood memories and a rapid rise to a steady fall from grace and death, the fragments of his life bound by the rhythms of his beloved music, always present.

Elvis may not have been more than the icon, but being the icon meant realizing his talent and being ambitious enough to reach for more and brave enough to take a chance. Elvis, too, takes a chance in its own way and strives to be a shining, hopefully eternal star in the sky of a subgenre that has, generally, so little to offer.

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