If I had to summarize Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis in just a couple of words, I’d probably go with something like “it was a kaleidoscope disco of rock ‘n roll”. That doesn’t really make much sense does it…feels like it strangely captures the essence of the film somehow though. As I continue my journey of watching all the Best Picture nominated films for the 95th Academy Awards, Elvis was next up on my list. Elvis is a biographical drama film starring Austin Butler as the beloved Elvis Presley, supported by Tom Hanks as the infamous Colonel Tom Parker, and Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley. With the combination of Luhrmann’s flashy and dazzling directly style mixed with Butler’s stellar performance, I thought the film was pretty good, but definitely flawed. But regardless of what I think, the film has garnered critical acclaim, including Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor.

Austin Butler as Elvis Presley performing on stage for the first time

While many fans of Elvis headed to the theatres to enjoy this biopic, I personally knew very little about the King of Rock ‘n Roll before watching this film. I’m familiar with his name (of course) and iconic legacy in the music industry, but in terms of Elvis’ personal history and achievements, it would be rude of me to claim I knew anything at all. So for me, Elvis had a large appeal as a fresh learning experience – although I can’t comment on the historical accuracy of the film (according to Lisa Marie Presley it was a beautiful and accurate embodiment of her father), I do feel like I walked away gaining a better understanding and appreciation of Elvis as a musician and person.

But now commenting on the film itself, while I did enjoy it overall (largely in part to Butler’s stunning performance), I did feel that it was a tad bit messy and a little too drawn out. I’m not sure if it’s due to Luhrmann’s directing style, but certain moments in Elvis felt clunky to me. While his signature use of flashy transitions and colours did work well to match the tone of the film, one thing I’ve always disliked about Luhrmann is his incorporation of modern music in his films. It just doesn’t mesh well with the scene (when it takes place in a different time of course)! I believe it was early on in the film when Elvis first met Tom Parker, but I remember suddenly being taken aback because Doja Cat started randomly playing out of nowhere. And it’s not that I hate the song or anything, I just find that it takes me out of the scene too much; I recall feeling this way during certain moments in The Great Gatsby (2013) as well.

Austin Butler as Elvis Presley hugging his mother

In all honesty, while the actual execution of this film was good, it wasn’t spectacular by any means. While Elvis did receive a nod in the Best Picture category, it’s not where I would cast my vote. But if there’s ever one thing that really deserves to be complimented about in this film, it’s Austin Butler. I mean, wow. As his first major leading role, I’m so amazed by his dedication and commitment to portraying Elvis as accurately and respectfully as possible. Everything from his voice to his singing to his dancing to his appearance all just seemed so spot on. There was something magical about his performance that just felt so authentic and real, all while respecting Elvis’ legacy at the same time.

And there definitely was a lot of music in this film, with many of the most memorable moments being Elvis singing and performing on stage. I thought the camerawork during these performances were really well done, and after seeing a side by side comparison of Elvis and Butler singing the same song, I was shocked by how realistic it all seemed. It was so cool seeing Butler gain this new vibrant and energetic persona when he was on stage, and it really added to his convincing portrayal of Elvis as a whole. I’m sure fans of the late singer will appreciate the boldness in which Butler pursued this role.

Elvis Presley with his parents as Tom Parker tries to convince them to sign the deal

But let’s take a step backwards because there’s something I really need to address and it ain’t positive – it’s Tom Hanks’ performance. I’m so sad to say that I can’t express the same praise towards Hanks as I did for Butler. I’m a huge fan of Hanks as an actor, but unfortunately in Elvis, it was arguably the worst performance I’ve ever seen from him. He made Parker seem comical and it was as if he took a cartoonish approach to portraying the character. The accent that he landed on really didn’t help his cause either (seriously, what was that?). While I heard in a recent interview from Butler (on Graham Norton which you can watch here) that Hanks expressed a lot of fear when creating the character of Colonel Tom Parker, I felt so sorry for Hanks because he just completely missed the mark in my opinion.

And with Parker being such a dislikable, villainous character, I was especially surprised by Luhrmann’s choice to tell Elvis through Parker’s perspective. Would it have been better being told through Elvis’ eyes? I’m not really sure. But what I will say is that I didn’t care for Parker’s character so I found him guilty regardless of his “opinion”.

Austin Butler as Elvis Presley about to perform Trouble

At the end of the day, I guess what it all boils down to is that Elvis is carried by a stunning, mesmerizing performance from Austin Butler. As I’m writing this review and thinking back to my thoughts on the film, all my positive comments seem to only be associated with Butler. So while I’m still undecided on who to cast my vote for in the Best Actor category, I definitely wouldn’t be upset if his name gets called. As a whole, the movie was entertaining despite being a little too long, and it had some emotional moments that were enough to make me sympathetic for the characters. While Elvis’ relationship with his mother could’ve been done a lot better, that unshakable connection between a mother and son is always something audience’s can relate to. After much deliberation, I’ve decided my final rating for Elvis is going to be a 7/10. It’s not exactly a film I feel like I’d ever crave rewatching, but I am definitely happy to have seen it at least once. The music was certainly fantastic and I love how I can walk away feeling a deeper appreciation for the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley.