Elvis–Rocket Man of the 60’s?
In Baz Luhrmann’s Academy-award nominated 2022 biopic of Elvis Presley (an extraordinary performance by newcomer Austin Butler), we see the journey back in time to the 1940’s through 70’s with historically accurate fashions, scenes, and most of all, politics through the civil rights movement. Elvis’s life is told from the perspective of his manager Colonel Tom Parker (played solidly by Tom Hanks).
Portraying the King is not an easy road to travel. The memories and hagiography of perhaps the first white rock star before the advent of the Beatles who stole much of Elvis’s thunder. But backstory flashes of the family that Elvis had to live with, including a loving mother who thought her son could do no wrong and was his ballast through his tumultuous climb to fame and fortune.
Born “dirt-poor” in Mississippi, Elvis and his family move to Memphis where they live in a primarily Black community. The young Elvis becomes fascinated with Black music and dance, making friends with other Black aspiring musicians. At that time, late 50’s US, the crossing over and appropriating Black culture were considered both suspect and dangerous. And Elvis Presley had to endure senate hearings, public ostracism, and a “fall from grace” that only serving in the US military helped disguise and eventually tamp down his overt sexual dancing moves while he sang for crowds of adoring mostly female audiences. Both racism and puritanical pre-sexual revolution marred his ability to remain at the top of the music charts. Colonel Tom Parker plots his rise again as the King of pop music.
A much more compelling movie than this viewer expected. Highly recommend!
Note: The historical film clips of the 1960s are quite dramatic and noteworthy.