Elvis Presley's conman manager reflects on his career on his deathbed.
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks
Review by Jon Kissel
It’s understandable if a viewer is out on Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis from its first scenes. Unfolding kaleidoscopes of rhinestones bedazzle the title card while breakneck zooms in and out of Colonel Tom Parker’s (Tom Hanks) eye accompany his portentous narration in an accent best described as indescribable. It’s overpowering in its first five minutes and there’s another 150 to go. Luhrmann will immediately abandon his framing device of the Colonel’s deathbed confession by showing childhood scenes of Elvis that he wouldn’t have known anything about, and the movie will make awful decisions in its storytelling and its filmmaking over and over again. Luhrmann and Hanks are both doing all they can to break Elvis, but in the titular role, Austin Butler keeps putting it back together. This is a mess that indulges in all of Luhrmann’s worst impulses to such an aggressive degree that it implies the director is in on the joke of his own filmography. However, there’s so many lifeless, rote musician biopics that injecting some gonzo energy into one is appreciated, especially with Butler at the center.
I like to think of myself as open-minded enough that the phrase ‘this movie is not for me’ doesn’t apply. I can generally get on board with a film pitched at any audience, about any segment of the population, and find something to appreciate or a problem that doesn’t simply distill down into an inability to ‘get’ it. Live-action musicals might be the exception to the rule. Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music were both in regular rotation in my parents’ home, and they always kept me at arm’s length. I just can’t get onto their whimsical wavelength, and it’s persisted through the modern musicals of Rob Marshall like Chicago and Mary Poppins Returns. A decades-later sequel to a film I’ve at least come to respect, Mary Poppins Returns gets minimal credit for not simply being an updated shot-for-shot remake of an old Disney property a la The Lion King, but that credit doesn’t count for much when it’s applied to a member of my least favorite genre.
I've probably seen Chicago near a dozen times. I saw it in theaters and bought the DVD when it was released, though it's actually been a a number of years since the last viewing. It's not a perfect movie, but it's great and there are definitely portions of it that I Iove.
We'll start with the cast... which was phenomenal. Our theme is Best Actress, and this is pretty much a female powerhouse cast. Zellweger got the nom for Best Actress... and while she was great in the lead I think she was actually outdone by both Zetz-Jones and Queen Latifah. Zeta-Jones took home the Oscar, though I probably would give the edge to Queen Latifah for overall performance. Regardless, all three were amazing in their parts. Richard Gere was a fine flashy silver-tongued Billy Flynn. My favorite casting and character, however, was Amos as played by John C. Reilly. He got a well deserved supporting actor nomination, but unfortunately not the win. (Interesting enough, Reilly was in three of the five 2002 Best Picture Nominated movies) Taye Diggs as the Bandleader was more important than I'd imagine most people notice on a single viewing. We also got some nice scenes with Mya and Lucy Liu. I actually forgot all about Dominic West, but he stood out this time around since I just started watching The Wire for our upcoming podcast series.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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