PRISCILLA – A Review by Cynthia Flores
When I heard that Academy Award winner Sofia Coppola directed this version of the story of Priscilla Presley based on her 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me,” I was excited. Coppola has a great storytelling style, and when it centers around women, she is at her best. I am thinking of The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, and now Priscilla.
After seeing Priscilla, I considered titling my review “A Study in Aqua Net” (a favorite hair spray invented in the 1950s). In the film, when Elvis fashions the young Priscilla into the well-known image of the woman history has come to know, the camera shows us the heavy amount of spray and eyeliner used to obscure the young girl.
The movie follows the factual story of how a young teenage Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) met and then married the iconic Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi). The film doesn’t shy away from the uneasy fact that Elvis was twenty-four years old and in the Army when he first met and dated the fourteen-year-old Priscilla.
At the Venice Film Festival, Priscilla Presley spoke about the age difference when they first met and before they got married and is quoted as saying:
“Elvis would pour his heart out to me, his fears, his hopes, the loss of his mother, which he never ever got over, and I was the person who really really sat there to listen and to comfort him. I was a little bit older in life than in numbers, and that was the attraction. And you know, people think, Oh, it was sex… Not at all. I never had sex with him. He was very kind, very soft, very loving. But he also respected the fact that I was only 14 years old. We were more in mind and thought. And that was our relationship.”
The core of this film is simply the young woman, Priscilla. We see the world of Elvis, the good and bad, through her young eyes. It’s all laid out—the bone-crushing isolation while he is on the road, the infidelities. And the outbursts of rage she had to endure are not glamorized or hyped up. They are simply presented as things Priscilla had to live with as part of her life in the mansion at Graceland.
The cinematography of Phillippe Le Sourd is a dream. It works hand in hand with the detailed production design of Tamara Deverell and the art direction of Danny Heaberlin. The whole film sits on the capable shoulders of Cailee Spaeny. She won the Best Actress award at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Her portrayal of Priscilla is layered and touching. Her performance of growing from a starstruck teen to a confident woman in the film is worthy of an Oscar nomination. Cailee has done good work in smaller parts in other films. But this breakout performance will surely put her near the top of the list of working actresses in Hollywood.
On a side note, I don’t know who made the decision to exclude Elvis’ music in this film and instead use famous songs from the period they were living in. That choice subtly cemented the fact that this story was 100% about Pricilla and her experience in the orbit of the superstar, Elvis.
I give Priscilla 4.5 stars. Pricilla and Elvis were such a mythic couple, and this film gives us a new perspective from behind the curtains of Graceland and life with the King. It’s another fine film from a woman’s perspective to add to the ever-growing library of the lauded director Sophia Coppola.
Directed by: Sophia Coppola
Written by: Sophia Coppola, Sandra Harmon, Priscilla Presley
Running Time: 1h 53 min
Theatrical Wide Release: November 3rd
Starring: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Ari Cohen, Lynne Griffin
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.
4 Stars – Good movie/show
3 Stars – OK movie/show
2 Stars – Well, there was nothing else…
1 Star – Total waste of time.