‘Elvis’ is Baz Luhrmann’s camp fever dream


Austin Butler gives a camp yet authentic performance in “Elvis”

It only feels right that I take on the task of reviewing Baz Luhrmann’s new “Elvis” movie, given the fact that I have been aggressively pushing the Austin Butler agenda since well before I even saw the film. 

I have been very familiar with Butler since the criminally underrated, life changing 2013 series that was “The Carrie Diaries,” so you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that Mr. Butler would grace our screens again after what felt like too many years of just being “Vanessa Hudgens’s boyfriend.” 

I joke, but I will give credit where credit is due. For people that feel like this casting came out of nowhere, I have been keeping my eye on Butler over the years. 

More recently, he has been slowly racking up small roles in respected directors’ movies — like Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” — so I was excited to see him finally snag a lead role. My ten year old self was honestly on to something there.

So yes, I had put my faith into Butler’s Elvis from the start, and boy was the “Elvis” movie something.

From the moment I sat in my seat, I couldn’t tell when the bedazzled opening studio credits ended and when the actual movie started, so you could say that I was expecting to be taken for an absolute ride from the get go. 

The film’s opening was like a flashy comic book montage where we were immediately introduced to Tom Hanks’s Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s manager and the film’s narrator. This was something I was not expecting.

I assumed this movie would be like a more traditional biopic where you watch the star grow up and proceed to follow them in a more structured, linear way, but Hanks’s character held way more of the spotlight than I was expecting. His performance was like an SNL caricature of the Penguin from “The Batman” mixed with a random circus clown.

There were times during the “Elvis” movie where I just sat there and laughed — not because it was deliberately funny or bad, but because it felt like I was in a literal fever dream.

I was sitting up in my seat looking around the audience in the hopes of seeing someone else having the same experience as me, but everyone was just staring intently at the screen. It honestly made me question myself for a moment, like, “am I watching this right?”

But that was the absurd joy of the “Elvis” movie: it’s camp. It is extravagance grounded by Butler’s uncannily authentic portrayal of Elvis Presley.

Butler completely embodied Elvis. From the way he talked to the way he danced, you could tell that he had completely surrendered himself to the character. I could not believe it when I found out that that was actually Butler singing in the film, because his voice was so similar to Elvis’s real-life one.

Butler’s performance was so good that it honestly makes me give him a pass for carrying on his Elvis accent for press interviews over a year after wrapping filming.

I think my biggest takeaway from the “Elvis” movie is that you have to appreciate it for the unorthodox madness that it is. You have to bop to Doja Cat on Beale Street and become a drop in Hanks’s IV drip that he rolls through a Vegas casino (an actual scene from this film.)

You can’t try to make it something that it’s not. You just have to meet the movie where it’s at and go along for the ride.

Rating: 4/5 stars