Baz Luhrmann’s new Elvis biopic is not just a tissue of lies, says Neil McCormick in The Daily Telegraph. “It’s a whole luxury king-sized box full of them.” Bound by the stage-managing Presley estate, Luhrmann presents Elvis as a saintly genius manipulated by his nasty manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The singer’s sexual proclivity, drug addictions and dark depressions are all blurred out of existence. Even Presley’s decade-long battle with weight is ignored. Instead, Luhrmann’s Elvis “graciously puts on a few pounds” for a brief finale. Unsurprisingly, a veil is drawn over his ignoble end: “an obese and constipated entertainer suffering a heart attack on a gold-plated toilet at Graceland”.
Not that it matters. First, Luhrmann’s film is “dazzling”. And second, “it puts Elvis back in contact with contemporary culture, when it appears he was in danger of fading away altogether”. After watching the movie, I asked a group of 20-somethings outside the cinema what they thought. Every one of them was amazed. “I didn’t know much about Elvis,” one girl told me, literally wiping tears from her eyes. “Such a beautiful, sad story.” They’re not alone. A poll in 2017 found that 29% of people between 18 and 24 had never listened to an Elvis song. All the outrageous liberties involved in compressing a complicated life into a coherent dramatic narrative are irrelevant, and perhaps that’s fine. “What this audience wants is to be entertained.”