*BPN23 Elvis

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect combination than Baz Luhrmann, Las Vegas, drugs, a rampant gyrating pelvis and Elvis. All the elements for the typical flashy excess of the director’s films are in place, and for much of the film, Elvis’s dizzy ascent from simple country boy to the King of Rock’n’Roll is punctuated by swirling camera work, eye-popping candy colors and a heady mix of blues, gospel and country music that shows all the different influences on the singer. Every part of his life is presented at a breakneck pace, and Austin Butler shines as Elvis Presley, exuding a smoldering sexuality that seems confounding to him before he realizes how to use it.

It must have seemed like a good idea to have the film narrated by Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s manager for his entire career. The Colonel started out in carnivals and his showy style as a huckster influenced Elvis’s career trajectory; Parker’s gambling addiction also kept the singer constantly working to the point of exhaustion. But the idea of having an unrecognizable Tom Hanks play Tom Parker in a fat suit with a bizarre accent was a distraction that I could not overlook. In profile, he looked a lot like The Penguin; all he needed was a monocle and a cigarette holder and he could have taken over for Burgess Meredith in the original Batman series. The accent was supposed to be Dutch, but every once in a while, Woody the Cowboy would come through and it took me out of the picture completely.

Austin Butler is nominated for Best Actor and has won the Golden Globe and a number of these awards in the past few weeks. I thought he was terrific in the first half of the film, but had trouble pulling off the aging, heavier singer in decline. I’m also not certain if this is a performance as much as an excellent impression. I think the Academy should come up with a new category where people are nominated separately for Best Performance of an Actual Person. Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland, Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn . . . there are quite a few winners who were able to capture the essence of someone very well known. But should this count against someone who is creating a character from scratch? Someone get Hollywood on the phone! I know they will want to hear from me!

The Popcorn Kernels of Truth gives this film Three Kernels. The dueling fat suits of Tom Hanks and Austin Butler in the last third of the extremely long film were a disappointment to me.

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