NOW IN THEATERS! There have been countless films and documentaries about the life of Elvis Presley. Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla gives us a glimpse into the king’s life through the eyes of his queen, Priscilla Presley. Based on the book Elvis and Me, written by Priscilla Presley and Sandra Harmon, our tale opens with a 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Saeny) sitting in a diner on a military base in Germany. She is approached by a friend of rock star and soldier Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi) and invited to attend a party being thrown by Elvis.
After convincing Priscilla’s parents, Captain Beaulieu (Ari Cohen) and Ann (Dagmara Dominczyk), to let her go, Elvis is immediately stricken with Priscilla. The first half follows the courtship of Elvis and Priscilla. While in Germany, the two are inseparable, and when Elvis is called back on duty, the lovestruck Priscilla is unable to concentrate on schoolwork (well, thankfully, there’s a pill for that). When his military tour ends, Elvis heads to Hollywood and insists that Priscilla move to Graceland and finish her high school education.
Priscilla paints an interesting love story. There’s no question that Elvis and Priscilla are in love, but are they in love with one another? Priscilla certainly loves the lifestyle as the girlfriend of the most famous celebrity at that time, and there’s a sense that Elvis wouldn’t survive without her. On the other hand, the musical star is not exactly an average person. He’s a celebrity pulled in many different directions. Elvis sees Priscilla as the only thing grounding him as a human being, but the pressure is intense (thankfully, there are pills for that). His insecurity turns into control through manic/depressive hazes and threats of violence, followed by groveling for forgiveness.
“…when Elvis is called back on duty, the lovestruck Priscilla is unable to concentrate on schoolwork…”
As much as I love a case study about human nature, I found myself bored through most of the film. Having seen my fair share of Elvis stories, it’s not hard to get ahead of this one. Yes, our couple is in love, and with the first introduction of drugs, you know this isn’t going to last, and we’re just waiting for the ball to drop because we all know it will.
As a drama, Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi give fantastic performances as Priscilla and Elvis. Unlike Baz Luhrman’s Elvis, the tone is one note. Like Priscilla’s character, the performances are low-key and subdued… thus the one note played from beginning to end.
Priscilla is fantastic at telling Priscilla Presley’s story, especially for posterity’s sake. Her account of her marriage to Elvis is on full display. The film simply has a problem due to its low-energy tone, which seems a bit off-brand for Sofia Coppola.
"…fantastic at telling Priscilla Presley's story, especially for posterity's sake."