Elvis review: Austin Butler perfectly embodies the king of rock and roll in new biopic


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Butler nails the moves, the mannerisms, the voice and somehow even channels Elvis’s charisma. When girls scream at him in the film’s electrifying musical sequences, you wonder how much acting was required.

Surprisingly, the film is as much about his scheming manager Colonel Tom Parker as the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer.

It is Parker (Tom Hanks) who talks us through Elvis’s formative years in a black neighbourhood in Mississippi, where he wiggles his hips when taken by the spirit of the Lord at a Revivalist church meeting.

Parker knows nothing about music but he knows plenty about making money. When he sees Elvis perform for the first time (and hears those ecstatic screams), you can see dollar signs light up in his eyes.

But then a furore erupts over Elvis’s ungodly gyrations and, during a brush with the authorities, Parker fears secrets from his own past could be exposed.

So he tries to tame the rebellious performer, his manipulations targeting the singer’s insecurities. 

He also has his own nails dark reasons for tying him into a long contract at a Vegas casino, scuppering Elvis’s plans for a world tour.

When jumpsuited, drug-addicted Elvis sings Suspicious Minds, we know he isn’t thinking about his wife Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge).

Luhrmann’s gift for dazzling musical sequences (as seen in Moulin Rouge) is on display again, not only in scenes with Butler but also with the black musicians who inspired Elvis, including a barnstorming Tutti Frutti from Alton Mason’s Little Richard.

Sadly, his limitations as a storyteller are also on display. Despite running to 159 minutes, he never gets under the skin of the icon.

But this is a foot-tapping, spine-tingling tribute to the King of Rock and Roll.

Certified 12A, In Cinemas Now

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