He received applause at Cannes, but critics were less kind to the new Elvis biopic – one even called it “insanely awful.”
The first reviews for Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated Elvis Presley biopic are – and some of them are pretty scathing.
Luhrmann has always been a source of controversy among directors, and it looks like his latest offer Elvis is no different – one reviewer even called his foray into musical biopics “incredibly awful”.
It’s not all bad, though – the film received a 12-minute applause after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this week.
Here’s what the reviewers say:
Lead actor Austin Butler’s solid performance is “buried alive under a rock-crystal roller coaster of weak biographical tropes.” writes David Ehrlich of IndieWirewho called the film “Bohemian Rhapsody at 4,000 miles per hour” (some viewers may find this quite attractive).
He was even more concise, referring to his scathing Twitter comment: write simply: “ELVIS is a nightmare.”
The worst thing about the movie, according to Erlich? Role of Tom Hanks as Presley’s longtime manager, Colonel Parker. He called it “perhaps the least compelling performance of his career”.
“Austin Butler Flounders”
The keeperPeter Bradshaw disagree with Ehrlich’s opinion of Butler’s performance, calling him “competent but not particularly inspired”. He writes that the 159-minute film is a “relentless, insanely garish montage” showing “a strangely indifferent approach to Presley’s music and his life.”
“Baz multiplied by a billion”
Hollywood Reporterwith David Rooney at least notes that your reaction to Elvis probably depends on whether you’re already a fan of Luhrmann’s over the top approach to filmmaking.
“If the script too rarely matches the surprising visual impact, the closeness a director feels for his showman is both infectious and exhausting,” he writes. But in the end, the film “dazzles”.
“Pompous and petty”
“This is a film about a legend that keeps it there: an idea darting in the distance,” he says, lamenting that the film “doesn’t add much to our understanding of the icon.”
Nicholas Barber of the BBC calls the film “hyperactive sensory overload”. “If you’re looking for a sensual and thoughtful Elvis Presley biopic, you’ve come to the wrong place,” he warns. But fans of Luhrmann’s OTT approach to filmmaking will find something to enjoy “within seconds” of the film’s opening.
“A Performance Worthy of an Oscar”
Butler’s performance as Elvis is “a stellar, Oscar-worthy performance”. writes Jim Vejvoda of IGNwho says the film’s biggest problem is the breakneck pace with Luhrmann rushing to tell Presley’s entire life story.
The effect is “vertiginous and at times even overwhelming”, but he says Luhrmann and Butler’s sheer passion for Elvis “eventually outweighs the film’s excesses and shortcomings”.
DiversityOwen Gleiberman was another who said the film is a mixture of ups and downs, calling it “a strange film – compelling but not always compelling, both broad and disjointed, with a central figure whose life for a long time feels like it’s not so much dramatized as illustrated.
Although the film is “terribly imperfect”, its ending feels “moving and true”.
Australian audiences can decide for themselves what will happen to Luhrmann’s latest film when Elvis in theaters June 23rd.
And the director may not be paying much attention to the mixed reviews as he already received a rave recommendation from Elvis’ widow Priscilla Presley after she saw the film. SMH reports that he called her token of approval “the greatest testimonial of my life”.