Film review: Priscilla

Told from the perspective of Priscilla Beaulieu, from age 14 through to her separation from Elvis at just 28. We see her turbulent life and the heartache of marrying one of the most famous performers in the world.

Written, directed and produced by Sophia Coppola, who previously gave us the quietly brilliant ‘Lost In Translation’ in 2003 and ‘Marie Antoinette’ in 2006, comes the antithesis to the massive and colourful hit film ‘Elvis’, which was directed by Baz Luhrmann in 2022. Based this time on the 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me” by Pricilla Presley and Sandra Harmon, we are introduced to a naïve 14-year-old Priscilla, who at the time of their first innocent meeting with Elvis was living in West Germany with her mother and stepfather whilst still in school.

Starring Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at El Royale) who won the Volpi Cup for best actress for the title role, Priscilla centres around the early emotional years of her love of the man she barely knew and her loneliness of being married to someone so adored in the public eye. As with previous Coppola films, feelings of loneliness are explored as Priscilla is surrounded by hordes of adoring fans who are effectively strangers, whilst being locked in a gilded cage. Cailee was chosen by Sophia to perfectly personify the ability to be an innocent young teenager whilst also having the acting weight to pull off the heavier later years of emotional loss and turmoil.

Elvis is played by Jacob Elordi from recent hit ‘Saltburn’ who was cast both for his similar looks as but also for his 18-inch height difference to further illustrate the age gap between them of 10 years as he towers over her in their oh so rare quiet moments in Graceland. Here we are witness to a young woman’s love that goes from innocent and adored through to independent and mature even if only in mind.

Written solely through the eyes of Priscilla, and with the factual knowledge and backing of Priscilla Presley herself, the movie mainly shows her growth through her highly eventful yet turbulent time of living in Graceland. Whilst also flying back and forth between West Germany’s demure and comparatively grey military family life at home and Memphis, Tennessee’s glamorous homeland whilst still a teenager. And at the same time seemingly performing a double life of trying to fit in her school life, the changes in daily tempo are subtle yet also scream of her longing for normality as she chooses her new wardrobe lovingly accessorised, and colour matched with one of many handguns she was trained to use.

Denied the rights to use Elvis’ back catalogue, Sophia also had the later backlash from Priscilla herself who didn’t recognise the demonised Elvis character as her father or indeed the young Priscilla performance as her mother. But fact-based films such as this will always tend to be dramatised to a degree, so it’s up to the audience to make their own minds up. Unfortunately here, too much has been left unsaid… trying to create a mysticism that only leaves the audience with more questions than answers. Lacking for example the further knowledge of the many drugs passed her way and their impact on her. Highlighting the highs and lows of a 14-year period is of course difficult, but a longer run time could have made for a better watch here. Cailee’s performance is first class and showed the innocence and eventual cold disappointment of Elvis extremely well leaving Graceland’s suffocating safety driving to Dolly Parton’s ‘I will always love you’.

Elvis, Lisa Marie and eventually Priscilla Presley will once again be together in Graceland where peace will finally prevail, but the memories we are given will live well on beyond even our own time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Piers, Maidstone Store

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