Priscilla Review

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Perched atop a high stool by the counter of an old-world diner, sits a rather coquettish Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny), a 14-year-old southern girl suddenly transplanted to West Germany when her military father is posted to Europe during the conflict. Not even waiting tables in a diner could make this foolish child grow up, who is surprised when her casual presence attracts the attention of an older soldier passing through. He taps her shoulder and asks if she would like to come to a party at his best friend Elvis’s (Jacob Elordi) house. Yes, that Elvis.

Even the mention of it in 1959 causes an adult shiver of excitement; let alone for such an impressionable teenager starved of any thrill. Some begging persuades her to go off to the party in her best dress, however once inside the crowded home she finds out he isn’t really as popular as she thought but rather just some homesick lonely man needing someone to talk with. It does not matter that these ears are on the side of a young teenager’s head anywhere at all in the world for 24-year-old Elvis who adds jokingly “You’re just a baby!” before inviting her upstairs promising nothing more than being gentle.

The mythos of Elvis has been deconstructed and reconstructed in various forms over the past sixty years or so, including Baz Luhrman’s flashy King biopic which earned him eight Oscar nominations less than twelve months ago. With Sofia Coppola adapting Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir Elvis and Me, however, balance is restored to what generally reads like one person’s story only. There can be no new revelation about how young teen Elvis first met Priscilla whom he seduced into this romantic entanglement that cost them both their youth apart from snappy statements every now and then.

This is exactly what Coppola does with her A24 production makes it more than meets the eye; nothing else but a feature that depicts such toxic relationships. Nor is Coppola a first-time director depicting adolescent females’ desires as seen in her earlier works. Priscilla is no exception to this longing state for sexual fulfillment. Adrenaline courses through the girl’s veins, causing her face to blush and her knees to buckle when Elvis gently puts his hand over her kneecap. It seems like electric sparkles are flowing through her veins instead of hormones. The examination of the sexual tug-of-war that comes to stand between the two builds a very effective foundation for the film’s portrayal of the relationship, with Elvis prone to emotional hyperbole while cruelly withholding his physical affection.

Without desire, a romance that once braved the dangerous waters of controversy settles upon the calmer tides of companionship, a constant shift between highs and lows beautifully walked by Spaeny. In Priscilla’s first half we anxiously wish away girlhood so that womanhood may dawn on us: tracing our finger along an eyelid where makeup has been smeared across its twitching surface or counting every inch added layer after layer at nightfall to towering strands per se. Her wearing such weighty expectations harms Spaeny none; rather it offers just subtle yet confident acting which contrasts well with Elordi’s flamboyant Elvis.

One might ask why should we pin two kings against each other, but it’s difficult not to compare the Euphoria alum’s role with a recent representation of the iconic singer by Austin Butler. While the Oscar-nominated Butler authentically propelled his career forward through an outwardly intense process to become the King, Elordi’s journey has been considerably less publicized. It turns out that this is for the best as far as the Australian actor is concerned, who comes in as an underdog and sweeps Priscilla and her audience off their feet in one fell swoop. Despite being about a female character, this film could not have been told without a thorough dissection of her attachment to a man who was such an essential part of her early life. Elordi understands how important he is in terms of public attention without actually seeking fame and in collaboration with Coppola achieves his greatest performance to date.


In six decades gone by, plenty has been said about Elvis’ relationship with Priscilla Presley, America’s royal family of rock’n’roll. Sofia Coppola changed all that when she adapted Elvis and Me – Priscilla Presley’s 1985 book – into a story narrated from Priscila’s point of view.

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