“Priscilla”: The dark side of Elvis, King of Rock ’N’ Roll

By Isla Seitz, November 21, 2023

Sofia Coppola, known for her movies such as “The Virgin Suicides” and “Bling Ring,” teamed up with credible movie production company A24 to release her newest movie “Priscilla” Oct. 27 before releasing nationally Nov. 3.

Heartwarming before turning heart-wrenching, “Priscilla” is based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir “Elvis and Me” that details the love story between herself and the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.

The casting of the film fits Coppola’s usual aesthetic of characters that appear astray and solemn. Priscilla Presley is played by up-and-coming actress Cailee Spaeny, whose mannerisms and look are a mirror image of Priscilla Presley. Elvis Presley is played by Jacob Elordi, known for his roles in “Euphoria” and “The Kissing Booth” trilogy. Spaeny and Elordi’s emotional performances help viewers feel the chemistry and heartbreak between the two

The year is 1959, and the movie opens with Priscilla Presley, Beaulieu, sitting at a diner bar located on an army base in Germany doing homework. The officer asks if Presley would like to visit Elvis. This is where the ball starts rolling, and also where the audience starts to get uncomfortable.

Presley and the officer go to Elvis’ house, and that is the first time the ninth grader reveals her age. The two find comfort within one another as both characters are in a place of grief. Its portrayal is endearing if audience members push the uneasy feelings away.

Presley and Elvis’ bond continues to grow stronger; however, their bond is abruptly interrupted by Elvis’ career as he begins to shoot a film away from her. The scene cuts to a sullen montage of a calendar flipping in Presley’s room, Sweet 16 cards accumulating and Presley writing love letters.

An interesting thing to note about Presley’s style is her clothes appear pure and age appropriate. She is always seen in dresses that hit right above the knee, modest and unassuming. Presley wears a pink dress with strawberries on it, symbolizing youth,  when she reunites back in Graceland, Elvis’ home in Tennessee.

The audience begins to witness Elvis attempting to change Presley — a sorrowful moment for women everywhere — when he takes her shopping. Everything she tried on he dismissed until she tries on clothes that are much more sophisticated and seemed to be items that women his age would wear.

Stacey Battat, the costume designer for the film, did a remarkable job at emulating the fashion from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Classic dresses that accentuated an hourglass figure for women and preppy blazers and dress pants for men transported the audience back in time. Presley’s story was thoroughly represented through Battat’s design, symbolizing a once innocent girl autonomy.

Elvis also “suggests” that Presley dye her hair and wear makeup to enhance her eyes. The change in costume indicates the way Elvis forces her to grow up and takes her youth away.

Presley moves to Memphis permanently to live at the Graceland estate. They then become married, and Presley wears a gorgeous wedding gown which was almost identical to Presley’s dress in real life.

After the newlyweds return from their honeymoon, married life is not as sweet as it used to be. Elvis had people over from the record label to listen to new music. The record label explained to Elvis that something in the song is missing. Elvis refuses to listen and asks Presley what she thinks to which she responds that she agrees with the label. The audience watches Elvis become possessed by rage and throws a chair at Presley with all of his might.

Watching someone as adored as Elvis grow violent and abusive is a shock to viewers. The feeling of Presley’s pain and confusion is felt through the big screen. Spaeny and Elordi’s acting in this scene is faultless in a way that truly conveys the fear that Presley felt.

The film begins to hone in and highlight Elvis’ drug problem. A short montage of Presley putting down a tray of food at the foot of Elvis’ bed and picking up the tray showing scraps of food while the blinds remain drawn shut. The small details chosen by set designers within this montage highlight how Elvis depends on drugs and how he wouldn’t get out of bed for days at a time, further straining their marriage.

As Presley enters motherhood, Elvis leaves to go on tour and continue to film movies. The two begin to live completely separate lives. During a dinner with her girlfriends, Presley is summoned to Elvis’ hotel room. Elvis tries to push himself onto her and Presley grows upset with his unwanted sexual advances. Viewers cannot help but cringe and turn away at the sexual assault shown on screen. The movie truly does showcase all of the ugly.

The entire story had continuous ups and downs. It felt like a never-ending whirlwind of emotions.

Even if one is not a fan of either Presley, the movie is worth the watch. The film covers sensitive topics such as sexual assault and grooming that can be grueling at times to watch. Viewing the story from Presley’s perspective made skin crawl as viewers watched her enter womanhood all the while being forced into inappropriate advances.

Feature image courtesy of A24

Verified by MonsterInsights