Movie info via IMDB:
When teenage Priscilla Beaulieu meets Elvis Presley at a party, the man who is already a meteoric rock-and-roll superstar becomes someone entirely unexpected in private moments: a thrilling crush, an ally in loneliness, a vulnerable best friend. Through Priscilla’s eyes, Sofia Coppola tells the unseen side of a great American myth in Elvis and Priscilla’s long courtship and turbulent marriage, from a German army base to his dream-world estate at Graceland, in this deeply felt and ravishingly detailed portrait of love, fantasy, and fame.
Sofia Coppola as a director can treat people caught in fame’s snare as a sort of Bling Ring– a thing desired but thrown away because it’s cheap and disposable. For me, her only satisfactory fame film was Lost in Translation, simply because the Bill Murray lead was aware of the cost of losing it. Not exactly a tragedy, but a nice exploration of a man making his own good and bad decisions and living with them in a sad, sweet ennui.
In Priscilla, Coppola’s perfunctory telling of the Priscilla and Elvis Presley marriage, the isolation and loneliness, all the fame is trained on Elvis and it’s Priscilla who tries and eventually can’t share in the fame, his narcissism and demands of fans, friends, his profession, the whole compromises of the fame grind. Of course, she was barely fourteen, a girl struggling with her emerging womanhood, the world and her forming mature identity, when she met Elvis (Jacob Elordi).
Based on Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir, “Elvis and Me,” the movie reconsiders the Elvis Presley story from the perspective of Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny). The satyr side, at least when it comes to Presley’s behavior around Priscilla, is filed down to a semi-platonic chivalric ideal, at least until she’s legally of age and they are married. Obviously, Coppola doesn’t want to deal with the creepy side, the statutory rape implications. Priscilla is not looking to destroy the Elvis myth, just define it within the bad side of the legend the fan and public can cope with- the temperamental artist, the insecurity, the tabloid gossip affairs. Priscilla Presley wrote the biography with both the legend in mind, and as the caretaker of the Presley name. She was also a producer on the film. Coppola probably compromised there to secure the film’s financing and assure that at least some semi-honest version is made and seen by the public.
Oddly the Elvis Presley Trust, which owns the right to his music and which was managed by Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’ daughter until her sudden death this year, never granted Coppola the rights to use the King’s music in the film. Neutered from Elvis’ music, Priscilla gains a tiny air of tragedy, makes you think that he’s a fading star losing his luster. Since no one can legally listen to or sing his songs and the audience is never privy to seeing a recording session Priscilla gains sympathy and enhances the truth to her side of the story. When the music has no power, the man himself, has no power. All that is left is pathos and that is what Priscilla walks away from in the end.
Priscilla is energized whenever Elvis is offscreen and isn’t controlling her. She can play and dance to her own music. Dress and make herself up the way she wants. unfortunately there aren’t enough of those Priscilla moments. There is only enough time to show the standard version. The tragedy of Priscilla is that the audience will never see the woman she becomes after Elvis. We can only truly know her too late.
Priscilla gets a 3.0 out of 5 or a B.
- Priscilla Presley
- Sandra Harmon
- September 4, 2023(Venice)
- October 27, 2023(United States)