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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Review: ‘Priscilla’

Photo via IMDb

Art Critic Abby Jarrett says “Priscilla” casts Elvis Presely in a new and disturbing light. 

Rating 8/10

A24 has done it again. “Priscilla,” released on Oct. 27, is an excellent example of the slow burning, dramatically disturbing film style that A24 is known for. If you love Elvis Presley, think twice before watching this movie because this film will make you hate him. Overall, this emotionally-distressing watch deserves an 8/10. 

Spoilers ahead for “Priscilla.”

“Priscilla” is told through the eyes of Priscilla Presley, wife of rock-and-roll icon Elvis Presley. The film takes you through the stages of their relationship: their first encounter in a diner when Priscilla was just 14 years old, their marriage after she turned 21 and all of the turbulent stages of their courtship and marriage. 

The purpose of this movie was not to shine a light on Elvis Presley, but rather, it takes a deeper dive into who he was through the eyes of the woman he married. Director Sofia Coppola chose to base the film off of Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir, “Elvis and Me,” which highlights the more intimate and disturbing details on their marriage and divorce. 

In the beginning of the movie, Priscilla meets Elvis in a diner on an Air Force base in West Germany in 1959. He then invites her to a party which is where the story truly begins. Later that evening at the party, Elvis, who is 10 years her senior, asks her to “go somewhere quiet” with him. 

The casting choices for this movie were perfect for what Coppola and the team of filmmakers were trying to convey to the audience. Actor Jacob Elordi for Elvis towers over Cailee Spaeny in her role of Priscilla. The height difference between the two actors helped to make an already uncomfortable situation even more uncomfortable by demonstrating the dominance that Elvis held over young Priscilla. Whether the casting directors did this on purpose, I thought it spoke volumes to the deeper meaning within that moment. 

After those first uncomfortable scenes where we first start to see the power struggle arise, the movie moves into details about their relationship before marriage. “Priscilla” highlights what the first few stages of an abusive and controlling relationship can look like in scenes such as Elvis inviting Priscilla to visit him, only to feed her insomnia medication which rendered her unconscious for two days. You can clearly see within the first 30 minutes of the movie that Elvis holds all of the cards in the relationship. 

Keep in mind that all of the disturbing scenes are true and based on Priscilla Presleys’ memoir. I personally think that this movie should have come with a trigger warning for audience members who have suffered a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. While Elordi does an excellent job portraying Elvis with the “Elvis voice,” dance moves and classic rockstar charm, the more violent scenes are a difficult watch for some viewers. 

Later in their relationship when Priscilla is older, she moves to Graceland permanently. Elvis changes her entire look with a different wardrobe, black hair and dark eye makeup in order for Priscilla to “mirror” her older and more successful new boyfriend. As an audience, we begin to see the more controlling and possessive side of Elvis as a partner. Coppola chose to focus some of the scenes on how physically violent Elvis became at times, as described in the memoir. In one scene, Elvis became enraged at an opinion Priscilla provided about one of his songs. Elvis picked up a chair and threw it at her, nearly missing her head. 

There are no Elvis songs played, which I found to be clarifying on the perspective of the movie. It spoke to how without his music and claim to fame being displayed, the audience was forced to focus on his behavior and the way he was abusing those around him.

Many Elvis fans might be offended by this film, as it might be considered slander, but I thought it was a unique perspective that cast a different light on a beloved American role model. Elordi and Spaeny did an incredible job at portraying an abusive yet intoxicating relationship on the big screen.

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