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#NYFF61 | Priscilla

#NYFF61 | Priscilla

A restaurant close to a U.S. military base in Friedberg (Germany) is the location chosen by Sofia Coppola to begin the biopic based on the book Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley (also a producer on the film), since this is the place that marks the character introduction of 14-year-old Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny), who is invited to a party to meet Elvis (Jacob Elordi). An Elvis that in the 1960’s was already a stand-out figure that accumulated hits and found himself there, after enlisting in the Army, serving as a soldier.

The death of his mother is something that made an impact on him, in such a way that regardless of him being seen in the company of friends, his loneliness never ceased to be noticeable. In that instant, Priscilla’s parents obviously oppose to her meeting with one of the most desired man by teenagers. Priscilla, who is shown in great deal of the film as the girl she was, insists and succeeds in attending the encounter that would change her life.

Sofia Coppola’s film manages to show a rough Elvis, the leader of youngster gang with whom he shoots at bottles and races in go-karts until rolling over. A group conformed by a clan of followers rather than friends, inert, those who cheer any action from a leader. On the contrary, Priscilla comes to him as a support after the recent demise of his mother; she is the one who becomes his rock, and out of necessity, his nexus with the feminine. This is her story and is represented from her point of view, something that can be uncomfortable because of the positive notions we tend to have about the singer, here shown as someone without empathy, at times violent and even manipulative. Priscilla asks her parents for permission to travel and later live with Elvis at Graceland. Here takes place one of the most beautiful scenes, in which the father gives away/lets loose her daughter’s fate, so that later, after seven years of coming and going and the excuse of finding the right time, they could get married. In that span of time, the newspaper gossip columns linked Elvis sentimentally with actresses such as Ann-Margret, after shooting Viva Las Vegas; an action that, added to Elvis’ sexual disinterest towards Priscilla and the several mistreatments, or the incorporation of drugs into the relationship, end up in presenting a girl through different stages of personal growth until finally leaving the marriage.

A lot will be said about Jacob Elordi’s portrayal, an Elvis that barely intonates a song or moves his hip in the smallest of scenes (and quite badly, by the way). It will draw questions about the chemistry between the protagonists, and surely many other issues, although what is undeniable is that Cailee Spaeny is the most important the film has to offer.

Anyhow, it is Sofia Coppola who, with a directing style already established, handles this ambivalent project of Priscilla, Elvis and their entourage as we never would have imagined, as well as also facing the task of putting into the forefront someone whom real life always put in the background. The sexual component seems absurd by moments; the lack of sex in the couple until they were married today would be unimaginable. However, it was one of the limits imposed by Priscilla Presley and which Sofia Coppola followed from the original book. On the other hand, Coppola also took other liberties, more artistic rather than historic. For instance, the anachronical use of music, as she employed previously in Marie Antoinette.

Something very positive about the film: not only the gesture of vindicating Dolly Parton by using the song “I’ll Always Love You”, known worldwide for the version performed by Whitney Houston, but also places Priscilla Presley far from being only remembered as the excellent love interest in The Naked Gun.

Director/Screenwriter: Sofía Coppola. Cast: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Ari Cohen. Producers: Sofía Coppola, Youree Henley, Lorenzo Mieli. Runtime: 113 minutes.

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