Released a year after Baz Luhrmann’s love-letter to Elvis, this biopic takes a decidedly different approach to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. For starters, there’s no Colonel Tom Parker. Sure, he’s occasionally referred to or unseen at the other end of a phone call, but his lack of presence allows this depiction of Elvis to be accountable for his own shortcomings. There are a few, including his short temper, infidelity and controlling nature. Yet while the film may not exactly be a valentine from Priscilla, it’s hardly a poison-pen letter.
Based on her memoir ‘Elvis and Me’, Priscilla opens on a US Army base in West Germany where the 14-year-old is invited to one of Elvis’ get-togethers. Though her parents are understandably skeptical, Elvis convinces them that his intentions are honourable. He endeavours to ensure Priscilla maintains her school grades, and resists consummating their affair until the time is ready. He even provides her with pills so she can party on school nights. It is indicative of a relationship in which Elvis is all things to Priscilla. Her lover; her husband; her guardian; her keeper; her tormentor and occasional abuser.
Robbed on the opportunity to impersonate Elvis on stage, Jacob Elordi nonetheless manages to inhabit his skin, effortlessly mimicking the singer’s voice and mannerisms. Cailee Spaeny also impresses in the title role, convincingly aging from impressionable schoolgirl to determined young woman. It is in the depiction of this journey that writer/director Sofia Coppola excels. Scenes of an impish Priscilla returning to school after her first kiss with Elvis and later roaming alone through an empty Graceland are conveyed by way of lyrical understatement free of dialogue.
Before her death, Elvis’s daughter Lisa Marie expressed her fear that this film would portray her father as a manipulative predator. She needn’t have worried. Despite the difference in years, Elvis and Priscilla's love story is depicted as one for the ages.
as Priscilla Presley
as Elvis Presley
as Jerry Schilling
Biopic depicts a character named Terry West inviting Priscilla to meet Elvis, whereas it was army buddy Lavern Currie Grant who did this. Years later, Grant would claim that Priscilla exchanged sexual favours with him for a chance to meet Elvis. Priscilla successfully sued him for defamation.
Apart from a fleeting glimpse of Elvis performing Guitar Man during his '68 Comeback Special, there are no scene recreations in this biopic. This may have been influenced by Elvis Presley Enterprises refusing the filmmakers permission to use his music.