On a December morning in 1970, the King of Rock ’n Roll showed up on the lawn of the White House to request a meeting with the most powerful man in the world, President Nixon. Starring Academy Award® nominee Michael Shannon (Best Supporting Actor, Revolutionary Road, 2008) as Elvis Presley and two-time Academy Award® winner Kevin Spacey (Best Actor, American Beauty, 1999 and Best Supporting Actor, The Usual Suspects, 1995) as Richard Nixon, comes the untold true story behind this revealing, yet humorous moment in the Oval Office, forever immortalized in the most requested photograph in the National Archives.
The biggest criticism this movie has received from fans is that Michael Shannon 'does not look like Elvis' but the trailer intrigued me enough to give it a watch. While he’s not the obvious choice to play Elvis he hits a sweet spot here. His talent for acting trumps the impersonation thing in spades. Essentially it allows us to focus on the story, not on appearances. Michael Shannon is not an Elvis impersonator.
This sly comedy combines terrific acting, an amusing plot, and sharp but appealingly understated observations of the period and the politics. It's based on a true story, as we know, but is fanciful and fabricated in spite of how unusual this event actually was. Most most biopics and fact-based dramas rely on such creative licence to make a popular movie, each view will make up their own mind as to whether they succeeded or not. I think to attempt a serious movie on just this subject would have been very appealing to the general public, and no doubt fallen short for the die hard Elvis fan!
You can watch it for the deftly handled absurdity of the characters and the encounters. You can watch it as an insightful, smartly directed meditation on right wing nostalgia. Either way--and of course it's both--'Elvis and Nixon' is a lot of fun, from the opening frames to the little bits that come after the closing credits (so don't stop watching as the credits roll!).
Kevin Spacey is a great Nixon--jowls, rolling shoulders, gravelly voice and all. But, no question, this is Michael Shannon's movie. He's terrific. He doesn't look much like the King, but as the movie underscores in one clever scene (in the airport), he's not an Elvis impersonator. His task is something tougher, but ultimately deeper and more compelling:
Shannon's task, which he nails at every step, is to walk through every scene as a STAR who distorts the motions of everyone around him through sheer gravitational force. It's a joy to watch him do this. I don't know if this is a movie for Elvis obsessives, but it's a wonderful movie for people who like comedy that makes you laugh repeatedly while respecting your intelligence. It's also a great film for anyone interested in celebrity, the seventies, rock and roll, politics, and popular memory--and it's way more fun than a treatise or seminar on any of those things.
A fun and entertaining movie but nothing outstanding. Well written and well made. It is a shame they did not include the Vietnam Vet episode on the plane, probably it did not fit in with the comedy they were aiming to produce, and such an act of kindness would not want to be made fun of. It is not a gut buster of a comedy, but if you like a good story and subtle comedy this movie is easy to enjoy!
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