HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – Priscilla is directed by Sofia Coppola with a script from Sofia Coppola and Sandra Harmon based upon a 1985 memoir by Priscilla Presley called Elvis and Me. The film adaptation is Priscilla Presley’s account of their courtship and marriage, and it stars Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi.
The most prominent element of Priscilla is the tightrope it walks between an objective understanding of this relationship and rendering Priscilla’s subjective point of view. She was a freshman in high school when she first met Elvis, and their initial courtship is portrayed as creepy, predatory grooming. Coppola accentuates the performers’ height difference, especially in the way she frames them, as Elordi’s Elvis towers over this little girl, which makes the relationship objectively unsettling.
On the other side of the tightrope is Priscilla’s subjective experience. As monstrous as the facts of the situation are, her fascination, love, and admiration for Elvis are just as clear. The degree to which she gets taken up in his whirlwind and develops real but immature feelings for him are just as movingly rendered. The times when Elvis resists consummating their relationship seem almost gentlemanly until those same behaviors become stifling withholding of affection later in their relationship.
Priscilla’s ability to walk this tightrope is a credit to Coppola’s artistry, her mastery of perfectly modulating how these characters are seen. Great acting by both Spaeny and Elordi keep the relationship believable and engaging, and the makeup and hair styling department as well as Stacey Battat’s costumes give Priscilla an immersive realism.
Structurally, the film is quite contained with minimal long time-jumps – until the end when the pacing speeds up dramatically and jarringly. It would have been ideal if Coppola could have ended the film without resorting to such leaps ahead.
Priscilla is not a kind portrait of Elvis Presley and certainly not as celebratory as last year’s Elvis where the King was played by Austin Butler, but the facts of the case are clear, and Priscilla Presley’s point of view is just as valid as Elvis Presley’s. Elordi and Butler are two Elvises perfectly calibrated to their individual movies, and at least now, with Coppola behind the camera, Priscilla has a chance to have her say.
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