Priscilla (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Sofia Coppola, written by Sandra Harmon, Priscilla Presley and Sofia Coppola and starring Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Ari Cohen, Dagmara Dominczyk, Tim Post, Lynn Griffin, Dan Beirne, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, Dan Abramovici, Tim Dowler-Coltman, R. Austin Ball, Olivia Barrett, Stephanie Moore, Luke Humphrey, Deanna Jarvis, Jorja Cadence and Josette Halpert.
Sofia Coppola’s finely rendered story of the early life of Priscilla Presley is nothing short of astonishing to behold. Priscilla is one of the most lusciously filmed pictures of all-time. It takes a great performance to make a masterpiece of this caliber and Cailee Spaeny truly understood her assignment. She is so emotionally invested in her character that one can easily forget this performance is the work of a young actress in her 20’s. Spaeny’s performance ranks up there with some of the great female performances of the century so far. She simply becomes Priscilla Presley and her acting will simply tear your heart out by the time the movie ends.
With her dark hair and beehive hairstyle, the young Priscilla (Spaeny) was a force of nature. She wants to be loved and yearns for affection and finds it for a while with Elvis (Jacob Elordi) who meets her when she’s just a teenager. A great scene has Priscilla’s dad asking Elvis what his intentions are for his daughter. Elvis answers correctly to some extent but Elvis ultimately proves to be unworthy of a woman of integrity like Priscilla. Elvis was a great musical artist, perhaps the best American music artist of all-time. However, he didn’t know what he was doing with his love for Priscilla if this new film and last year’s brilliant film, Elvis was an indicator of how things really were between them.
Elordi plays Elvis as a wrecking ball. A man who can single-handedly “rock” Priscilla’s world and tear it out from underneath her all within a few minutes. Elordi captures the mannerisms and vocals of Elvis extraordinarily well. It’s a truly inspired piece of acting. Elvis met Priscilla when she was a teenager and because Priscilla had classmates that were fans of Elvis, she was able to make it through high school thanks in part to cheating off a classmate’s test, according to the film.
The movie loves Spaeny. Her face and body are filmed in artistically intriguing ways that make the character of Priscilla a force of nature. She stood up to Elvis when he was addicted to philosophical books that bored her and when Elvis made a movie with actress, Ann-Margret, it, in many ways, started to destroy the essence of the connection Elvis and Priscilla had together. One phenomenal scene has Elvis reading philosophical insights to some fans and Elvis expressing an admiration for a girl’s perfume which understandably makes Priscilla jealous.
Priscilla and Elvis also shared some terrific time together taking photographs (and LSD) and the movie loves the couple more than anything in these scenes. This film adores and roots for Elvis and Priscilla to be happy together but Elvis’s nasty attitude sometimes becomes a barrier to his relationship with the woman of determination who would eventually become his wife– Priscilla.
Towards the end, Elvis is filmed performing on stage from behind. He’s like a sideshow attraction that is garnering fans while his wife is home suffering keeping the “home fires burning,” as Elvis so eloquently puts it in the picture. This film doesn’t use Elvis songs to advance the plot. Apparently, it wasn’t allowed to use them. Instead, it uses character development and each frame of the movie is carefully constructed to make sure the shots mean something insightful. One scene has Priscilla shooting a gun off during target practice and there are many meanings and potential symbolism here. Priscilla has control of her relationship with Elvis just like she holds and controls the gun but her emotions and love for her partner get the best of her which leads to her accepting Elvis’s behavior when she should not.
This picture also shows the early years of Elvis and Priscilla’s daughter, Lisa Marie. If Elvis ever had a reason to settle down and love Priscilla, it was Lisa Marie. This movie makes few judgments regarding Elvis’s infidelity but, instead, shows us how Priscilla tried to deal with it. Eventually, she can only take so much as a human being. She will have to liberate herself from the suffering at some point.
Cailee Spaeny’s legs are shot sublimely here and the movie shows Priscilla getting on a scale to weigh herself at one point. Coppola loves Spaeny’s (and Priscilla’s) physical attributes and that helps make Spaeny’s performance one for the record books. Priscilla was a beautiful woman whose only weakness was her belief that her love for Elvis could overcome harsh realities.
Spaeny is almost the whole show here. Her expressive eyes and mannerisms are nothing short of breathtaking. This is one of the most well-nuanced performances of recent years and should be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No director can express human yearning and emotional desires better than Coppola.
Priscilla is Coppola’s best movie in 20 years. Hands down. This movie has so much emotional depth that it could require multiple viewings to unveil all the layers of Spaeny’s performance and Elordi’s as well. When they were at their passionate best, Elvis and Priscilla could have conquered the world together. Instead, Elvis made poor choices that were more detailed in last year’s film. At the end of Priscilla, audiences will hear Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” to remind viewers Priscilla truly loved Elvis. But, some types of love are not always sustainable for a lifetime in the physical form. Priscilla reminds us of that. It’s Sofia Coppola’s best movie since Lost in Translation.
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