December 23, 2016

A date with Elvis

Elvis & Nixon (Liza Johnson, 2016). Does it bother you if a historical figure is played by an actor who bears no resemblance? Michael Shannon looks nothing like Elvis Presley  a skinny, black-haired, insomniac speedfreak, his Elvis looks more like Sisters of Mercy frontman Andrew Eldritch  and he suggests an inner life more tortured or complicated than we usually expect of Presley. Such is Shannons gift. This slight and generally mediocre film imagines the circumstances surrounding a famous, or famously strange, photo of Presley shaking hands with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office in 1970, when he reportedly offered his services as an undercover narcotics agent. Kevin Spacey plays Nixon as a kinder, gentler Frank Underwood  his right-wing paranoia is nothing compared to that of the Kings, whose side of the story dominates. But one brief reflection on the psychic burden of being a surviving twin is as deep or memorable as it gets. This cartoonish Elvis mostly muses in cryptic silence. The sadness is interesting but is it Elvis sadness?