Now that November has arrived and the awards season inches ever closer despite the lingering SAG-AFTRA Hollywood strike, the need for entertainment options grows even greater as the holidays approach. A24 Films offers its prestige picture, Priscilla, which is sure to generate interest among pop-culture fans and cinema aficionados, alike.
Headlined by Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, this film focuses on the real-life life experiences of the young woman who would eventually become the King of Rock and Roll’s wife, and the roller coaster ride that will bring. Beginning with a chance encounter that catches the eye of the musician on a U.S. Army base in Germany, the life of Priscilla Beaulieu (played by Spaeny) dramatically changes from fangirl to lover.
Sofia Coppola’s film portrays the character’s ages of 15 to 27 years old and Spaeny brings plenty of emotion to the role, but I have to admit, this particular Priscilla always looks like a little girl when compared to E.P. as the age difference is great between the two (and so is the height differential here). The aging process is minimal throughout, so I could never quite dodge that suspension of disbelief.
In terms of the man, the myth and the legend, well, he’s definitely got a darkness that translates onto the screen. He smokes, he pops a lot of prescription drugs, he cheats on his wife and has violent outbursts (saying it comes from his mother’s side of the family). Overall, he’s rotten husband material, but very good to Priscilla during their extended courting period. While it’s not really fair to compare Elordi to Austin Butler’s award-winning performance, this characterization doesn’t have the drawl down perfectly (Butler nailed it, BTW), but he still mumbles and is hard to understand at times, very much like Elvis, himself.
As for the overall storyline, this one feels a lot different than Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. The timeline doesn’t match up exactly with last year’s award-winning film, but it does paint the picture of a complicated relationship. And while it’s hard to differentiate between truth and fiction when dealing with big-screen adaptations, this one is enjoyable, but by the time she finally stands up for herself in the relationship, the film abruptly ends. I’m not so sure that was the climax we wanted, as the audience, or needed, but that’s where Coppola takes it.
In terms of the film’s acting, I truly didn’t recognize any of the young actors involved — which isn’t a bad thing — and that’s probably due to not being a targeted TikTok demographic. The kids will probably swoon over the leads and the pop-culture fans of Elvis from back in the day may be interested in the story, while movie nerds like me recognize the biggest talent of the film is actually behind the camera. That’s three totally different demographics that will make or break this release. Good thing its budget was only $20 million.
As a very big fan of A24 Films and a Southerner who grew up in Tennessee having visited Graceland decades ago, I enjoyed this locally painted portrait of love and loneliness. And what Tennessee-based film would feel complete without a closing tune by Dolly Parton, one of the state’s greatest treasures?
I hope that Priscilla can build an audience from this weekend’s box office, eventually turning that into a meaningful awards campaign.