‘Elvis’ avoids a detail that would make us see the king of rock with different eyes today

By Miguel Ángel Pizarro.- Elvis lands in our cinemas endorsed by critical approval, the 12-minute ovation it received after its first screening at the Cannes Film Festival and the immediate interest caused by being a biopic of the King of Rock and Roll. And after seeing the film, I have to say that it has all the elements to succeed and revive the rage around the figure of the singer, while allowing new generations to meet one of the great icons of music of the 20th century just as he did Bohemian Rhapsody and Queen’s music leading on Spotify.

Austin Butler as Elvis and Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla in ‘Elvis,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (© 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Directed by Baz Luhrmann -in his first job since The Great Gatsby nine years ago- the film takes on the enormous challenge of recounting the life of the emblematic singer between the 50s and 70s, also briefly narrating his childhood. And, of course, that means talking about his rise in the world of music, how he created the concept of the mass fan, how his style and way of moving his hips caused a series of controversies that led him to have problems with Public opinion. As well as his time in the military, his success in Las Vegas, addictions and, of course, his relationship with Priscilla Presleyone of the three women who marked her life along with her mother Gladys and her daughter Lisa Marie.

And this is where we are going to stop. The film narrates how Elvis (in the skin of a dedicated austin butler) and Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) met, married, divorced amicably and how she became his faithful advisor, as well as served to make the singer see the excessive dependence he had on his manager, Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks).

It is true that the film shows this love as an important support for Presley. Moreover, it has the approval of Priscilla herself, who has praised the film since its promotion began, singing praises for the portrait that the Australian director has made of her ex-husband. And yes, she comes out very well in the biopic. However, there is a detail that is not named and that only fans, as well as those who knew Presley’s life, would know: that the singer began his relationship with Priscilla when she was just 14 years old and he was 24.

May 1, 1967: Rock and roll singer and actor Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977) holds hands with his bride, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, on their wedding day, Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

May 1, 1967: Rock and roll singer and actor Elvis Presley (1935 – 1977) holds hands with his bride, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, on their wedding day, Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Australian Olivia DeJonge was 22 years old when she filmed Elvis, eight more than Priscilla had when she met the singer. And since the actress plays Priscilla throughout the film, she makes it logical that the producers have chosen a performer who can embody her character from her youth until she divorces Elvis. But what is striking is that the scenes in which the singer begins his romance with her, does not say how old she is, but refers to the fact that the young man had promised to leave her at home “early”. That is to say, as if he had a schedule in which he must return home.

However, just from that comment we can guess that Priscilla would be younger, but without knowing for sure how much. And it is that both Austin Butler and Olivia DeJonge have a youthful appearance that, if the real story is not known, I imagine it would be easy to fall into the confusion of believing them to be closer in age and not that their characters were a decade apart. Also, as the ‘juvenile’ character of Priscilla wears an outfit reminiscent of a school uniform in the midst of war, the confusion may be more apparent.

I partially understand that Luhrmann did not want to name this essential fact explicitly. And it is that Elvis took his relationship with Priscilla very seriously, whom he was 10 years older than and whom he met during his military service in 1959, when he was stationed in Germany, where Priscilla was with her family since her stepfather was United States Air Force officer.

It is true that the relationship with Priscilla was always serious (even when the young woman, at only 15 years old, moved to live in Graceland with the approval of her parents), since they had a courtship of seven and a half years before they got married. marriage on May 1, 1967, when she was 22 years old, which means that they married sure of the relationship, since their daughter was born in 1968, a year later. However, despite being a relationship that, in its time, managed to show itself as a formal love story, which made Elvis settle down (at least for a while), contemporary eyes would not welcome knowing explicitly that A 24-year-old man seduced a 14-year-old girl. What’s more, no one would pay attention to the fact that it was a long-term, serious relationship and that, finally, they got married as adults. If Luhrmann exposed the numerical data after the age of each one, the tribute would have gone to waste today, surely clouded by the inevitable debate.

Hence, he understands in part that Luhrmann has deliberately omitted to give this information in his film, which has the express support of both Priscilla and Lisa Marie. However, that does not hide reality, which invites us to go further and see how society has evolved and how greater protection of minors is sought. It also allows us to see how in the 50s and 60s, The King of Rock was allowed practically everything, because among his scandals and controversies, there was never his relationship with a teenage and minor Priscilla.

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