The Waltz Went Out The Window

Stars: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., David Wenham, Alton Mason, Natasha Bassett and Kodi Smit-McPhee
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Scriptwriters: Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner
Composer: Elliott Wheeler
Cinematography: Mandy Walker
Bazmark Films/Warner Brothers Pictures
Rating: PG 13
Running length 160 Minutes 

This film about the late Elvis Presley not only contains the music and performances fans love, but what went on behind the scenes. Meaning – the relationship between Colonel Parker (wholeheartedly played by Tom Hanks from “1883”) who liked to be called a “promoter” rather than a manager, and the rising star –  known as Elvis Presley (here played by Austin Butler from “Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood”). When Parker first sets eyes on Presley, it is like a vampire looking at his next feeding. In this instance, the feeding is gradual, just enough to keep the star going on grueling schedule after grueling schedule. When you see the persona of Parker, you see a well-fed man living off someone else. Does this sound pessimistic?  Yes, and as the film goes along, Parker read his star just right.  A young man who wants to go to the top and doesn’t care how he gets there. Drugs, alcohol, and people who take him for granted and live at his house are all part of this.  It didn’t have to be, but it ended up being. Sadly. As a result, the world did not have an Elvis Presley into his 70’s and beyond, but a man who died at age 42. 

The film begins as Parker is slowly dying in 1997. Flashbacks show us about the life young Elvis had, with a possessive mother (Helen Thomson) and a weak-willed father (Richard Roxburgh). Elvis was always interested in music, though he preferred the music from Beale Street in Memphis.  When the Colonel, then working with Hank Snow, meets Presley for the first time, he sees his own ticket to greatness. Soon, there are recording sessions, road trips and eventually, fights at concerts.  It is because of this that it is suggested that Presley enlist in the Army (goes to Germany).  It was thought this would end his career with its novel body language, but no, this was another beginning at which the Colonel took advantage.  We see Presley meeting the girl of his dreams in Germany, Pricilla (Olivia DeJonge from “The Staircase”), the purchase of Graceland, and the many performances, then movies that came along. The culmination being the satellite performance heard and watched around the world, but centered in Hawaii. All promoted by the Colonel, who coins such statements as “The art of duplicity” and “Show business is snow business.”  How true. 

Austin Butler is a young actor and this film is sure to be a breakout role. With an Elvis-style face (narrow jaw line and full lips) he was a natural for this role, plus, he can sing, too. There isn’t a great deal of dialogue that he has to say, though, compared to the Colonel (Hanks) who with his European accent, sounds like someone from a Dickens novel. They are the main characters of the over-long movie, and the rest of the cast just passes through. Helen Thomson, though, as Elvis’s mother, goes over the top with emotion, while Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla, is under whelmed. 

Fans go to this film for the music and they will not be disappointed. You might just close your eyes and listen to everything and you will understand as well as watching the screen. My favorite Elvis Presley films are “Jailhouse Rock” and Heartbreak Hotel.” Favorite songs are “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”  Elvis Presley had an expressive voice, knew just how to phrase and kept the beat going throughout the song. No wonder when he first began his career, parents were worried---the waltz just went out the window. 

I am sure when Oscar nomination time comes, there will be nominations here for Austin Butler and Tom Hanks and the soundtrack. 


Copyright 2022 Marie Asner