Sofia Coppola’s newest film shows another side of the King and a never-seen-before portrait of his ex-wife
Priscilla Beaulieu was a 14-year-old girl when she first met Elvis Presley in the American military base where her dad was affected. He was a decade older than her and already world-famous, but that didn’t stop him from taking an interest in the teenager. Both would begin a tumultuous relationship tinted by passion and violence.
Some accuse the director of struggling to reinvent herself. She seems incapable of telling stories other than those of young bourgeois girls locked in glass cages, dreaming only of love and freedom. There’s no denying that these themes can already be found in practically all her work —Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, Somewhere. The result, however, is as touching as ever.
Each frame conveys the delicate drama of the main character. The spectator feels as if they are there, living with Priscilla. Cloistered in Graceland, Elvis’s estate, bearing the surges of anger and the cruelty of her husband. We feel for her when she gets yelled at, cheated on, diminished, or disregarded. Sofia Coppola has a talent for bringing her films to life. The lighting, the colors, the shots —everything reflects the emotional state of her characters.
The make-up, hair and costumes also contribute to this impression. Not only are they executed to perfection, practically pulled out of the photographs of the real Elvis and Priscilla Presley, but every change of hairstyle, every stroke of eyeliner, shows the evolution of the heroine. Through very simple stylistic elements, we see her sink, then grow and raise her head to the surface.
Jacob Elordi, who interprets Elvis, said that “the most I knew about him was in Lilo and Stich”. His interpretation of the character is larger than life. Priscilla even told the director how surprised she was to hear his voice and “how much he sounded like Elvis”. Cailee Spaeny, who plays the lead, has only had small roles up until now. In Priscilla, she shone on the screen and even won the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival.
The story of the Presley couple, almost elevated to royalty in America at the time, had never been told in film from a female point of view. In this film, neither Elvis is demonized nor Priscilla idolized. Instead, the viewer is under the impression of entering the golden prison of Graceland and observing as if they were a spider dangling from the ceiling. No one else but Sofia Coppola could have delivered such a sincere portrait.
CREDITS: Text by Malena Cortizo A.