Elvis director Baz Luhrmann feared only one review: Priscilla Presley’s

Presley the performer is compelling. Presley the Man is portrayed as a rebel at heart, whose enduring love for black gospel and rhythm and blues echoed and enhanced the excitement of the Civil Rights Movement.

Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge and Austin Butler on the red carpet in Cannes.Credit:Joe Maher/Getty Images

Mostly, though, it’s about his relationship with Colonel Tom Parker, his manipulative manager, who was revealed after his death that he had defrauded his client out of millions of dollars. Usually a sympathetic movie host, Tom Hanks plays Parker with reptilian gaiety.

“As I’ve heard from anecdotes, the Colonel was an attractive and wonderful guy who lit up a room,” Hanks said. “He brought joy to everything he did, along with a little bit of theft. The number of ways Colonel Tom Parker has defrauded people of nickels and dimes is extraordinary.”

Some of them, he added, had been incorporated into his own life. “You take something from every film you make!”

Elvis was shot in Queensland with a cast list that could be a roll call of Australian acting talent.


Olivia DeJonge, who plays Priscilla Presley, was at Cannes with Luhrmann and his wife, costume designer Catherine Martin. DeJonge spoke with a sense of her responsibility to play someone who is not only alive, but still deeply engaged in the subject.

“There’s that energy of feeling that person on your shoulder, looking constantly,” she said, and her Australian twang came as a surprise after seeing her on screen. “I think you’ll always struggle with whether you’ve lit something real and human in them. She’s such an important part of his legacy. The fact that she’s happy and supporting the film here means the world.”

No expense was spared at the party that followed the film’s premiere. Cannes collective memory previously held Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge bash in 2001 to be the best Cannes party ever, but the Elvis launch pushed it to second place. A drone show spelled Elvis’ name in the skies over the Mediterranean, grounding Luhrmann along with everyone else. Eurovision 2021 winners Maneskin played a set before DJ Diplo took to the dance floor.

It was, of course, all film-appropriate: Luhrmann’s films were made as public events.

“Our film was made for one thing and one thing only, which is to bring the audience to the theater,” he told the press conference. “We wanted to make it theatrical.”

Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, 1970.

Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, 1970.Credit:Frank Carroll/Sygma

But as usual, that lavish form of theatricality has divided critics.

Among the British press, The Telegraph described it as “a bright and rousing jukebox epic with an irresistible central performance… the most impeccably stylized and screaming thing you’ll see all year, and all the better for it.”

the guard saw that same gaudy in a different light as “another pointless explosion of super-spangly sparkles in celluloid form”.

The tragic course of Elvis’s life – his decline into drug addiction and death at age 42 – was not seriously investigated. “Luhrmann is at all times concerned to save Elvis from irony, failure and suffering.”

Among the influential film trade magazines, indie wire came out against “the eyesore of 159 minutes” while Variety had a bet, describing it on the one hand as “a bubbly, delirious, mischievous energetic, compulsively watchable fever dream lasting two hours and 39 minutes” that was also “an odd movie – compelling but not always convincing, simultaneously sweeping and distracted” and finally “completely imperfect”.

But it doesn’t matter, my mother. A carnival show, according to the film’s Colonel Tom Parker, should leave the gamblers with a smile on their faces. The Elvis experience in Cannes certainly did.

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