Elvis ★★★

A dizzying, kitschy mess that is regardless surprisingly coherent in structure and well paced.

The fairly normal biopic parts were perfectly functional, even if they suffered from the usual problems of the genre, with plot threads coming and going in a slightly unsatisfying way. Really, the first and second half kind of felt like they were about different people altogether, as the failing marriage quickly became the centerpiece of the entire story; even Elvis' relationship to his fans and performing was reinterpreted through it. There were attempts to build continuity with the initial parts with the parents through the general theme of family, but it didn't really work since they were very different conflicts.

All the political stuff, in particular, seemed like a subplot with no resolution. Elvis' transformation from a figure of great controversy to a universally beloved artist almost felt like it happened overnight, and the movie didn't really articulate any meaningful point about race. It certainly didn't say that Elvis ended racism, but in some sense, it feels like it kind of wanted to – but just didn't because it would have been an absurd thing to say. I dunno, it just felt like that particular subplot really did not go anywhere. It had the energy of the trivia section of a Wikipedia page.

With how disjointed it was, I thought the framing device would help the movie deliver a final statement tying it all together, but it kind of didn't, I guess? But on second thought, the way it happened didn't necessarily feel without purpose, since the narrator was notably pretty unreliable. How critically was the final monologue meant to be interpreted? No idea, probably would need a second watch to make up my mind.

Regardless, I think my biggest question remains: the hell was Tom Hanks doing? Was his weird accent that honestly seemed to be from nowhere supposed to be a genuine effort to represent a character whose entire identity was fake? Or was it purposefully weird to further mark the character as a fictional construct, as an actor playing a role to the audience? As a performance, it's pretty hard to evaluate through the lens of "was it good or bad", but Austin Butler, thankfully, was just straightforwardly good. Cannot imagine what this movie would have been like to watch like without him.

Somehow, Elvis seemed both just luckily compelling through its strong lead performance and wholly calculated even in its flaws and quirks through its weird framing device. It was accidentally good and bad on purpose, and decidedly adequate on the whole. If it feels like everything I have to say about this movie is contradictory, it's because I have no idea what to make of it. It certainly was a movie. Thanks for reading my very helpful review!

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