Austin Butler’s hips don’t lie. He becomes the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, possessing all his quirks and emotional inflections in Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis.” Standing as the best individual performance of the first half of 2022, Butler’s moves propelled him into the best actor Oscar race. However, his path to a nomination won’t be easy, with a total lack of casting from his co-star Tom Hanks, who is thrown into a fat suit with a questionable accent and an over-the-top runtime. The success of the biopic awards will depend on the overall box office of the film and the possibilities in other Oscar categories.
Something occurred to me during the screening of “Elvis” ahead of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May: there is no one who has not heard of Elvis. Still, as time moves away from his era, ending with his death in August 1977, he has become more of a myth than a person, especially among millennials and younger generations. As a movie buff and eclectic music fan, I’m very familiar with Elvis’ hits, especially after watching them several times during seasons of the singing competition show “American Idol.” It could be argued that due to social media influencers and the changing landscape of entertainment consumption, songs like “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” are well known but could be associated with other artists who have covered them. For example, they could associate him with 1993’s British reggae band UB40 (featured in the movie “Sliver”) or with 2017’s killer version of Haley Reinhart, featured in commercials.
Curiosity about the famous musician can help at the box office of “Elvis”, both from younger people who want to know who he was and from older people who want to see if Luhrmann got it right. The same curiosity helped Dexter Fletcher’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) win four Oscars, including best actor for Rami Malek, who played Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.
Watching how Butler controls his mannerisms and vocal inflections throughout the film, every movement is intentional, showing the musician’s vulnerability. Reminiscent of Oscar-nominated roles like Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line” (2005), there’s plenty for the viewer (and eventual award voters) to cling to. However, the film will need to be a full awards player for Butler to make the actors list.
Also, like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the final scene of “Elvis” is what opens the tear ducts and brings up thoughts of “what could have been,” as Butler releases every ounce of his fiery soul in an audience recreation. musician’s end. performance of “Unchained Melody”. The quintessential “Oscar clip” stays with you long after the credits roll.
Butler, who turns 31 in August, could be seen as too young to win the best actor award as voters often want them to “pay their debts”. While many might point to actors like Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”), the third youngest nominee in history who was 22 at the time, or a winner like Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” (2014), multiple categories down the line and/or a best picture nomination is often required for such a feat, something “Elvis” can have trouble achieving.
To be one of the only nominees for a film in the best actor category is hard to achieve (unless the actor is well-established, like Antonio Banderas in “Pain and Glory”). Even with a Golden Globe win, BAFTA and SAG nominations, Taron Egerton’s work as Elton John in “Rocketman” (2019) failed to make the 29-year-old actor’s cast. However, his film was nominated and won the Oscar for best original song (“I’m Gonna Love Me Again” by John and Bernie Taupin).
What helps Butler’s quest for recognition is that many of Luhrmann’s earlier films have found love from the artisan branches of the Academy. Luhrmann’s adaptation and remake of “The Great Gatsby” (2013) garnered two Oscars for production design (Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn) and costume design (Martin), while “Romeo + Juliet by William Shakespeare” (1996) mentions for production design (Martin and Brigitte Broch). Luhrmann’s masterpiece “Moulin Rouge!” (2001) is his only film to be nominated for best picture, and since then he hasn’t even come close. It should be noted that “Moulin” is also the only one in his filmography to receive an acting nomination – Nicole Kidman, who had a double whammy alongside “The Others”.
Four-time Oscar winner Martin delivers impressive production design (featuring decorators Beverley Dunn, Shaun Barry and Daniel Reader) and could find her way to a double nomination once again. The recreation of 1970s Las Vegas, with a tremendous musical sequence to “Suspicious Minds”, will keep the film in discussion. All the melodic elements bode well for better sound recognition, a category that has been very kind to musical biopics like “Ray” (2004).
When it comes to makeup and hairstyle, the industry can often reward “more” rather than “better”. The crafts performed with Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla (who is exceptional despite limited screen time) and Kelvin Harrison Jr as BB King are exceptional. However, it’s hard to decipher where Hanks’ mutation in Elvis’ longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker, goes off the rails. While he has become one of our most beloved actors, this is one of the most bizarre outings of his long career.
The film’s brisk runtime and failure of the film’s storytellers to address the influence of the black community and its musicians on Elvis does not suggest that a mention of editing or script is in its future. But people can simply look beyond this omission.
“Elvis” is at his best when focused on the love between the King and his wife Priscilla and the hits he produced during his career. What’s most apparent is Luhrmann’s respect for his surviving family, giving Priscilla and her daughter Lisa a tearful goodbye they never had. We’ll see who agrees along the Oscars line.
“Elvis” is distributed by Warner Bros. and opens in theaters on Friday.