Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, besting the challenges of being filmed at the height of the pandemic, premiered to a 12-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday.
Priscilla Presley, 77, joined Luhrmann and the cast and crew of the film on the Cannes carpet, giving her blessing to the biopic about her late ex-husband – the King of Rock and Roll.
It seemed like everyone but Elvis attended the premiere.
Stars like Kylie Minogue, Shakira and Sharon Stone rocked the red carpet, fronted by the film’s cast.
Austin Butler, who had the seemingly impossible task of becoming Elvis, walked the red carpet with his model girlfriend Kaia Gerber.
The universally beloved Tom Hanks posed with Olivia DeJonge, with the pair starring in the movie as Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker and Priscilla Presley, respectively.
Luhrmann, proud as punch, dressed in all black save for a dazzling Elvis belt buckle.
Inside the theatre, Variety reported the audience erupted into applause as Butler recreated some of Elvis’ legendary hits, including Jailhouse Rock, Blue Suede Shoes and Suspicious Minds.
The 12-minute standing ovation was the longest of this year’s festival so far, according to Variety, moving Butler to tears.
Elvis explores the legendary singer’s complicated relationship with Colonel Parker, a former carnival worker turned talent manager who would eventually control the reins of the legend’s career.
Critics have their say
Although reviews of the film are mixed, one thing is for certain: It’s undeniably a Baz Luhrmann movie.
As Variety put it: “Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is a fizzy, delirious, impishly energised, compulsively watchable 2-hour-and-39-minute fever dream”.
Whether you like it depends largely on how you feel about Luhrmann’s fondness for “maximalism”, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Butler’s performance, meanwhile, pleased THR.
“His stage moves are sexy and hypnotic, his melancholy mama’s boy lost quality is swoon-worthy and he captures the tragic paradox of a phenomenal success story who clings tenaciously to the American Dream even as it keeps crumbling in his hands,” THR wrote.
Hanks’ performance irked critics, perhaps because Colonel Parker is such an unlikeable character.
Deadline described it as a “creepily memorable portrait and even a risky one as Hanks goes all in on the accent of this man”.
The talent manager claimed he was born in the US but was born in the Netherlands under a different name.
In terms of the film as a whole, Luhrmann’s distinctive style either wooed critics or made them roll their eyes.
Not holding back, IndieWire made its feelings known in the headline: “Deliriously awful biopic”.
“Austin Butler gives a performance worthy of the King, but he’s buried alive under a rhinestone rollercoaster of weak biopic tropes,” IndieWire’s top reviewer David Ehrlich wrote.
He thought, quite emphatically, that the film was “so adoring of its style and so disinterested in its subject” that the film should have been called Baz instead.
Critics aside, perhaps the most important reaction to the film belongs to the Presley family.
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Priscilla Presley revealed in an Instagram post in early May that her daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, loved the film.
“I’ve seen Elvis the film, I watched the trailer over a dozen times. But the words I heard from my daughter on how much she loved the film and that [her daughter] Riley [Keough] will love it too when she sees it brought tears,” she captioned the post.
“I relived every moment in this film. It took me a few days to overcome the emotions as it did with Lisa. Beautifully done Baz, Tom, Austin and Olivia.”
Elvis premieres in Australian cinemas on June 23