Sunday, April 14, 2024


Movie Name:
Year of Release: 2023
Director: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Ari Cohen, Dagmara Dominczyk, Tim Post, Lynne Griffin, Dan Beirne, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, Dan Abramovici, Matthew Shaw, Tim Dowler-Coltman, R Austin Ball, Olivia Barrett, Stephanie Moore
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review
Following the film "On the Rocks", which she wrote and directed for Apple+ streaming service, writer/producer/director Sofia Coppola is back, this time around focusing her point of view on the universe of Elvis Presley, but from the perspective of the woman he married, Priscilla. The tone could not be as diametrically opposed as to what Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis" illustrated. The film focuses on the story of Priscilla Beaulieu, whom we first encounter in West Germany, attending high school. Her father is an Army Captain, which explains why she is living in Europe. While attending a party at the Army Base she meets Elvis Presley, who is at the peak of his fame. He's immediately drawn to her, though she's only 14 and he's already 24. Priscilla's parents are immensely worried about this attention, because of her young age, and his popularity. Upon his return to the States, they lose contact and Priscilla resumes her schooling. In 1962 Elvis reconnects with her and invites her to come visit him in Memphis for a brief vacation. The following year Elvis negotiates with Priscilla's parents to have her come live his parents and attend a private girls' Catholic School in Memphis. While her parents aren't all too happy with the situation, they concede. Priscilla ends up spending considerable amounts of time on her own, while Elvis has a string of publicized affairs with co-stars during movie shoots in LA. Upon his return to Memphis he denies all those relationships. They eventually marry in 1967, though Elvis reliance on prescription drugs is already starting to worry Priscilla. Their volatile relationship continues, even during Priscilla's pregnancy. Their relationship continues to deteriorate, until it reaches a breaking point where Priscilla asks for a divorce, as Elvis is doing his residency in Las Vegas.
While Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis" was an exercise in documenting the excess of his life, and the relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker, Sofia Coppola's take on this narrative shifts the tone and perspective to Priscilla, specifically focusing on the experience of a young woman falling in love and having to grow up in a situation that is a bit uncommon. Sofia Coppola's best films are always permeated with heroines who feel out of place, or who are still figuring out who they are, which was the case of Scarlett Johansson's character in "Lost in Translation", Kirsten Dunst's in "The Virgin Suicides" and "Marie Antoinette" and now Priscilla Beaulieu. This scenario in particular, surrounding Elvis' focus on the 14 year old Priscilla is to say the least, very problematic, but the director handles it gracefully, peppering the family's dynamics and concerns into a situation that even then could have been disastrous. The film flows at a rhythm that is customary to Sofia Coppola's features, which is to say, there's a quasi ethereal pacing to the interactions between characters, and what is taking place onscreen, that nonetheless doesn't preclude the fact that emotional turmoil and even harsh dramatic events are taking place. And while it would be easy to let Elvis' larger than life persona to take over, Sofia Coppola smartly shifts the focus to Priscilla's pains of growing up, of leaving a life under his shadow, and having a point of view of her own. There's something to this narrative that on paper and in the hands of a lesser gifted storyteller, could have easily become a Lifetime movie of the week, but Sofia Coppola brings both an impeccable attention to detail, and also her point of view of allowing the central female character to eventually find her voice. Even if she endures quite a bit throughout the narrative. Some of the characters don't necessarily get much of a voice or dimension, and at times that leaves the film somewhat anemic, but the central duo is well captured. The performances are solid, including Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Ari Cohen, Dagmara Dominczyk and Tim Post. The production team is impeccable, with highlights going to Phillipe Le Sourd's cinematography, Phoenix's score, Tamara Deverell's production design and Stacey Battat's costumes. It's a film worth watching from one of the most unique voices in cinema working these days.