Priscilla Review

Thursday 4 January 2024

Plot: When teenage Priscilla Beaulieu meets Elvis Presley, the man who is already a meteoric rock-and-roll superstar becomes someone entirely unexpected in private moments: a thrilling crush, an ally in loneliness, a vulnerable best friend.

Film: Priscilla

Director: Sofia Coppola

Writers: Priscilla Presley, Sandra Harmon, Sofia Coppola

Starring: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi

Sofia Coppola's directorial prowess shines through in her ability to vividly portray a world observed through the confines of privilege. Coppola masterfully captures the searing loneliness felt by women who seemingly have it all yet live in profound isolation.

In this tale, a young girl, Priscilla Beaulieu, impeccably portrayed by Cailee Spaeny, encounters rock icon Elvis Presley, played by Jacob Elordi, at 14, sparking an inevitable infatuation. Elordi's portrayal unveils a compelling, enigmatic cruelty beneath Elvis's charismatic allure, presenting a darker and more intricate persona than Austin Butler's portrayal in Baz Luhrmann's take on Elvis. Once Priscilla tastes Elvis's attention, ordinary life loses its luster, rendering everything drab in his absence.

The film avoids categorizing Elvis as a groomer or Priscilla as his victim. Instead, Coppola explores the complexities of their relationship, sidestepping binary notions of innocence and guilt with elegance and sophistication, in ways it’s a one-sided romance. She keenly exposes the power dynamics surrounding Elvis, emphasizing how these structures influence not just his relationship with Priscilla but all his connections. A poignant scene where Elvis takes Priscilla shopping illustrates this, showcasing his control over his entourage and indirectly over her.

Both Priscilla and Elvis are products of their time. Priscilla, molded by 1950s notions of womanhood, attempts to fit into Elvis's prescribed image. The film subtly chronicles her liberation through wardrobe choices, marking her emancipation from enforced conformity. Meanwhile, Elvis's worldview, shaped by rigid gender roles, demands Priscilla to conform to his ideal.

Ultimately, Priscilla's journey culminates as she drives away from Graceland, shedding the role of a child and emerging as her own woman. Coppola delicately portrays this transformation, set to the poignant tune of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," marking Priscilla's self-realization and newfound independence. Elvis ‘losing her to a life of her own’.

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