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Elvis soars bigger than life

Less of a biopic than glittery Gatsby style party, the new movie Elvis explodes with energy and excitement. Director Baz Luhrmann already showcased his musical and cinematic wizardry in projects like Moulin Rouge, where he never let precise timelines or facts get in the way of grabbing attention. Luhrmann keeps some basics from data surrounding Elvis Presley but intentionally catapults over the top for a fun adventure that captures the excitement and energy of a performer whose iconic influence continues decades after his death.

The life of Elvis already inspired various screen versions, so rather than repeat previous structures, Luhrmann emphasizes the relationship between Elvis and his manager Col. Tom Parker. This puts Tom Hanks in the picture, adding acting gravitas, but of course focus remains on the title character.

The screenplay points out that Elvis seems happiest and most alive when singing—and the movie reflects that quality, most intense during its musical interludes and slowing down off stage. This means less dramatic range for actor Austin Butler, who nonetheless shines in a role that generated awards attention in various other versions. Butler glides into vocal mannerisms without the self-awareness of an impersonator, and the actor slips into gyrations as if he can’t help it.

The real Elvis always wanted to make it big in movies like Viva Las Vegas—but it took this film about him to achieve that goal.

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