Elvis Presley Biopic Gains Mixed Reviews, with Some Praising Austin Butler for his Performance

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Photo: BBC

The new biopic on Elvis Presley has received rave reviews from critics, who say that Austin Butler did an excellent job capturing the King’s music and legacy. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, this film was released at the Cannes Film Festival Wednesday. 

The Wrap said Butler “throws himself into the performance,” while Total Film said it expects an Oscar nomination.

Yet, Vanity Fair stated that Butler is “the only thing that works,” and IndieWire described the movie as “deliriously awful.” 

“Yes, it’s a bright and splashy jukebox epic with an irresistible central performance from Austin Butler,” said The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, awarding the film four stars. “But in that signature Luhrmann way, it veers in and out of fashion on a scene-by-scene basis: it’s the most impeccably styled and blaringly gaudy thing you’ll see all year, and all the more fun for it.” 

Kevin Maher from the Time gave the movie four stars, with the journalist saying Elvis is “easily Luhrmann’s best movie since Romeo + Juliet.” 

“The power in the musical numbers is drawn from Butler’s turn but also from Luhrmann, who edits with the kind of frenetic rhythms that are almost impossible to resist (feet will tap),” he stated. “They are the spine-tingling highlights that make the entire project a must-see movie.” 

In 2019, it was reported that despite stiff competition from Harry Styles, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller for the role of Presley in this film, Butler eventually got the role. 

Butler “makes a compelling argument for the power of Elvis, at a time when the musician’s arguably lost a little of his cultural cachet,” said Clarisse Loughrey from The Independent, complimenting the actor’s performance. 

“Butler has looks, the voice, the stance, and the wiggle nailed down, but what’s truly impressive is that indescribable, undistillable essence of Elvis-ness – magnetic and gentle and fierce, all at the same time.” 

The Wrap’s Steve Pond called the actor’s portrayal “wildly physical but never cartoonish or disrespectful.” 

However, he added: “It’s not really [Butler’s] fault that he doesn’t look like Elvis, that his singing voice can’t really get close to Elvis and that the makeup, hair styling, and wardrobe used to get him in the ballpark mostly makes him look like an Elvis impersonator.” 

But a few reviews were more critical. 

“If only this 159-minute eyesore… a sadistically monotonous super-montage in which as weird Flemish guy manipulates some naïve young greaser over and over and over again until they both get sad and die – were gracious to be as short in any other respect,” said David Ehrlich of IndieWire.

“It’s hard to find even ironic enjoyment in something this high on its own supply; something much less interested in how its namesake broke the rules than it is in how its director does, and something tirelessly incapable of finding any meaningful overlap between the two.” 

Many media outlets have released their film reviews, a mixture of good and bad.