“… a movie that lived up to, and even surpassed, every expectation that I had.”
Every once in a while I come across a movie that I know I absolutely have to see. It’s not often that those movies live up to my expectations, but when they do it is that much sweeter. Luckily, Elvis & Nixon is one of those films that lived up to every single expectation I had. Elvis & Nixon is a film about the infamous meeting between The King and The President. Elvis Presley is fed up with the state of America, and he decides that it would be beneficial if he were made an undercover Federal Agent at large, equipped with a badge. Of course, he is Elvis Presley, so he decides to immediately travel to Washington where he will request a meeting with President Nixon. What happens next is the funniest 80 minutes I may have ever seen on film.
I love Elvis, but it is no surprise that toward the end of his life he was not the most rational person in the world. I’m not saying he was crazy, and I don’t necessarily blame him for his many famed actions, but let’s just say that he was very eccentric. This makes him an absolutely brilliant subject of a comedy film. Throughout Elvis & Nixon you don’t laugh at Elvis, but you laugh at the situation. The King of Rock n’ Roll requests a meeting with the President who may have been the biggest stick in the mud. Both men are very set in their ways, and feel that everyone else in the world should respect them. What happens when these two meet is nothing short of comedic brilliance.
Now the story is fictional, but there are parts of truth thrown in. The reason that is fictional is because nobody knows exactly what happened in the meeting between Elvis & Nixon except for Elvis & Nixon. There have been accounts of people claiming that they overheard this or that, but largely the meeting is left to our imagination. With that being said, I don’t know that you could get a more realistic depiction of this event if you tried. I never once questioned the events in the film, because they fit both characters so well. When the pair finally do meet, it is like watching an unstoppable force meet with an immovable object. Neither one wants to succumb to the other, so you have this strange impasse of egos.
What I also liked about the film is that it didn’t shy ways from the reality of Elvis’ situation. Elvis had been quoted many times stating that he feels alone and that nobody truly knows the real Elvis, and this film deals with some of that. That is part of the reason why I never questioned any part of Elvis & Nixon, because the story didn’t hide the real feelings it made itself feel a lot more like a biopic rather than a fictitious dramatization. Seeing Elvis at that point in his life was very refreshing, because it is a very different Elvis than the one that the public was privy to.
Of course a large part of what makes the film work so well is the performances. If you have read my other reviews you will know that I am a huge Michael Shannon fan and he once again knocks it out of the park. It is no small task playing The King himself, but Shannon did it seemingly with ease. Something I respect is that Shannon didn’t make his voice extra cheesy, or contort his face to make him look like a caricature; he just played Elvis as a normal (well, “normal”) guy. Kevin Spacey did a great job as Nixon as well. I’m not as familiar with Nixon as I am with Elvis, but from everything I know about I would say that Spacey did a great job with speech patterns and mannerisms. Again, I appreciate that Spacey didn’t do the exaggerated ‘Nixon voice’ which many people are quick to jump to when discussing the president. Instead he played Nixon very realistically, which added to the films authenticity. And of course you have everyone else in the film who did amazing jobs as well. Both Alex Pettyfer and Johnny Knoxville did great as Elvis’ friends and assistants. Alex Pettyfer particularly did a great job because his character, Jerry Schilling, was key to the “real Elvis” image that I mentioned earlier. Also, both Colin Hanks and Evan Peters did great jobs as the White House staff that help set up the meeting between the iconic pair. And finally every single person who comes in contact with Elvis did great jobs as well. Be it the secretaries who scream with joy when they see him, or the civilians who stand with their mouths agape in his presence, every performance only added to the realistic feel of the film. And it also can’t go without saying that the music selection in the film was pretty kick-ass.
Overall Elvis & Nixon is a movie that lived up to, and even surpassed, every expectation that I had. With a ridiculous yet realistic story and wonderful performances, Elvis & Nixon is a film that I definitely recommend.
I give Elvis & Nixon an A