A year after Baz Luhrmann's brain hemorrhaging Elvis film starring a stellar Austin Butler, we get a much more nuanced product of the Presley story. This time around, Sofia Coppola focuses on Priscilla Beaulieu's transformation into Priscilla Presley along with all of the pain and tumult to come along with it.
I've been quite vocal about my dissatisfaction with Luhrmann's Elvis. My little zinger above, along with a general level of discomfort while watching the film dominate my thoughts on the film. It's a movie that tries to do way too much, in Luhrmann's classic style of excess. All the while, painting Elvis in a one dimensional light of rock-super-megastar-actor-renaissance-man with some flaws. Meanwhile, Priscilla takes a back seat in this narrative when in reality the relationship between the two is a defining dynamic of both these historical figures.
Now with Coppola's Priscilla we're seeing the story from Priscilla's (Cailee Spaeny) point of view, especially in how it relates to Elvis' treatment of her. We still get to see Elvis (Jacob Elordi) ascend the ranks of stardom, becoming further detached from marital reality, but from a unique perspective that provides depth to the Presley's.
On top of the plot, perspective combination sits Coppola's stylistic flare. Soft lighting creates a great feel for the film, accenting its romanticism. Pulling the audience into the Presley's romance results in Elvis' numerous outbursts providing a stark contrast to the intimacy. Coppola is able to display Priscilla's story through a new lens that effectively shows both sides of the coin without being derivative, or even predictable. One moment, Priscilla and Elvis are enjoying their time together at a pool party in the incandescent soft glow of the sun, mimicking an old film video recorder. The next minute Elvis is throwing a chair against the wall as a retort to Priscilla's words, or flaunting letters from mistresses in easily discoverable places. As much as your heart flutters for the couple on the screen for moments, the shadows are in plain sight and the red flags aplenty. Mixing these moments together through a sprawling film keep you engrossed in the story and incredibly invested in Priscilla's happiness.
That being said, the editing and general style of the storytelling can be slightly dull. Playing out like a stream of consciousness or diary entry eliminates a lot of the time elements. The only indicator of the passage of time are the varying metamorphoses of Elvis and Priscilla, along with hints from newspapers, magazines and other pop culture references. While I love a film that isn't extremely upfront with these sorts of things, Priscilla left me wanting a little more direction. Then again, time is sort of irrelevant as the plot you're following is not time-dependent, but relying on Priscilla's point of view and growth alongside it.
Boiling it down, the film is a success due to a phenomenal performance from Spaeny. She really has multiple roles in the film as different stages of Priscilla's life. The delicate balance she adjusts between these life-stages is incredible to see. Her chemistry with Elordi, who also is a standout in the film, is sublime. Adding to an already engrossing character study. Last but not least, as I mentioned before, Coppola's direction is top notch. Stylistically she adds depth to the film while keeping it moving forward with minimal distraction. All in all, I enjoyed this "Elvis" story so much more than Luhrmann's and I hope Spaeny receives the same awards praise as Butler did!
One of the more incredible/incredulous moments of Priscilla is when Elvis tells Priscilla that she can't have a day job. It's either him, or a career. Establishing a strong theme of dependence, rebellion, and the imposition of will on a romantic partner. While normally I would opt for something lighter to enjoy alongside a romance film, there's a dark side to the film's oft light tone. Something that can only make sense with a heftier beverage alongside you. Bickersons Brewhouse gives us just the sort of thing with the No More Day Job, a West Coast IPA with some heft.
While it drinks like a lighter IPA it packs in a 7.7% ABV that can creep up on you. Jam packed with hoppy flavors and that classic west coast bitterness, this is surely a staple for all WCIPA lovers! The citrus and piney resinous flavor keep you invested while the more complex hop characteristics get you thinking a little bit more.
Maybe I'm trying to make it sound too much like Priscilla but regardless, this is a great beer and this is a great film.
I'm all aboard the Cailee Spaeny awards hype train by the way.