Elvis & Nixon – Review

It would seem that once again I’ve unwittingly ended up back in the 1970’s. I mean this with regards to the content of this review, not in my views towards women and race. Those are still stuck safely back in the 19th Century (MASSIVELY DISTASTEFUL JOKE). It’s also good to see Kevin Spacey take a break from Netflix-and-chill and get back to the silver screen, although it’s not exactly a difficult transition of roles, as he’s moved from the White House to…erm…the White House.

As the title suggests, this film is something of a snapshot of history, telling the story of how Elvis Presley somehow talked his way into an audience with Richard Nixon in the Oval Office. The zany premise being what it is, I found that the film struggles somewhat with its identity. The clashing personalities of Nixon and The King are obviously intended as comedic gold, and this is often the case in many of the scenes, yet there are several moments of a more dramatic nature which are played oddly straight. Michael Shannon’s portrayal of Elvis is an interesting one, lacking in the zazz and flair that you would expect from a 1970’s popstar and instead showing us a tired, aging musician held together with hair dye and gold medallions, lacking in any substance from his former self. This point is hammered home in a scene when Shannon’s King is mistaken for an Elvis impersonator by two actual Elvis impersonators. This is by no means a complaint, and Shannon’s fine acting really makes you feel for the character, I just don’t imagine that it aided the comedic value as much as it could have.

That being said, the comedy is certainly there. Spacey’s Nixon is suitably doddering and irascible, with White House aides Colin Hanks and Evan Peters scurrying about trying to keep everything  running smoothly. Whilst these two minor characters have charm of their own, and entirely necessary for the advancement of the plot, the same cannot be said for Elvis’s two associates, played by Alex Pettyfer and Johnny Knoxville respectively. The former is an utterly two-dimensional straight man who we’re supposed to care about because of he’s missing his fiancee or somesuch nonsense (when in reality he unintentionally sports the WORST sideburns in the film, which given its setting is really saying something) and the latter is so completely redundant that I had to consult the Wikipedia article to find out what his name was. Not the best crack at a serious motion-picture, Knoxville.

In summary, this is a bit of an odd film in many ways. I’m not entirely sure what it wants to be, and I’m not sure the producers are either. It could be that it’s just a somewhat anecdotal look at a small moment in history, which is incidentally fine, but it makes one wonder why it was pitched as a big comedy blockbuster. Then again, Independance Day has a sequel out, so it may be that I just no sod-all about marketing. Go and give this movie a looksie, because it’s worth your time for the good acting and chuckles. Just don’t anticipate a roll-in-the-aisles experience or Oscar-worthy drama through all the facial hair.

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