“Priscilla” is All Dressed Up with Nowhere to Go – and No Elvis Music in the Tri-State Area Near Graceland

After Baz Luhrmann’s maximalist telling of the life of the king of rock ’n’ roll, there was little choice for someone else showcasing aspects of the Presley legend but to swing the pendulum the other direction for a version of Elvis lore from a different point of view. Unfortunately, writer/director Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla (C) loses something in translation. The actress Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley is the film’s main saving grace, playing the ingenue from ages 14 to 27 and not missing a beat with a tender, affecting and quiet performance. With a nostalgic gaze of loving pinks and lace, it’s clear Coppola is depicting a girl emerging into a world of which she’s never conceived, and there’s something fascinating about the delicate depiction of that optimistic wonderland. But opposite a low-energy, rather charisma-free version of Elvis, played with brooding mystery by Jacob Elordi, the chemistry just isn’t there; and watching the “14-year-old meets 24-year-old” courtship origins followed by abuse and adultery makes for a slow-burn descent into nightmare. It’s not enough of a barn-burner to present a compelling alternative memoir nor plot-driven enough to demand rapt attention. There’s also no Elvis music, with the bands Phoenix and Sons of Raphael adding whatever creative flourishes they can to the soundscape more to dramatize the title heroine’s interior life than to replace the iconic songbook. It’s a noble experiment of tone poem as feature film but doesn’t truly plum much depth out of its central characters or give them much to do once the shock of the age gap is handled. The auteur’s precious snow globe filled with home, hearth and an unconventional relationship is rather inert on its mantle and rarely gets all shook up.

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