By Megan Bianco
Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla is not a movie for Elvis Presley fans. It’s barely a movie for fans who like Priscilla Presley.
It is essentially a movie for Sofia Coppola followers.
There are historical inaccuracies and creative liberties up the wazoo, and not even a single Elvis song to be found on the soundtrack.
It’s the antithesis of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis (2022) from just 15 months ago, in both good and bad ways.
Rather than portray the “First Lady of Rock & Roll” as sassy and free-spirited like how Olivia DeJonge was in Luhrmann’s feature, 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) is introduced in Coppola’s picture as a bored wallflower who is stuck in West Germany while her stepfather Paul (Ari Cohen) is stationed there as a U.S. Air Force officer in 1959.
Almost instantly, things appear to fall into place for Priscilla. From being invited to a house party where 24-year-old superstar Elvis Presley (Jacob Elrodi) is attending while drafted into military service, to being asked out by the rock star, to eventually being invited to live at his estate Graceland back in the States by the time she’s 17.
In between homework, parties, photoshoots and dates, we see that not all is perfect while dating and being married to the biggest star in the world.
Much of the attention before Priscilla was released was on the ridiculous height difference between Spaeny and Elrodi, as well as 24-year-old Spaeny’s believable baby face. It’s impossible to ignore the age difference physically, and successfully doesn’t let us forget how inappropriate the couple are during their courtship.
But while the tone works for the first hour of the film, the second half should have us seeing some growth in both Priscilla’s maturity and the dynamic between the pair. Instead, we meander for various scenes of the ingénue going along with the rock-wife life and accepting that her husband cheats on her and neglects her regularly.
By the time she’s 27 and realizes being married to a famous musician might not be worth it, we’ve already reached the end credits.
Along with the fact that huge periods of time are glossed over throughout the film, we’re left wondering if Priscilla might have been stronger if the characters were fictional and loosely based on real celebrities.
What does work in the film is all from Coppola. The indie filmmaker’s movies are known for their distinctly feminine “vibes,” and there are plenty of them here, especially during the scenes where Priscilla is by herself.
In an era where we’re getting swarmed with quick, straight-to-streaming movies with barely an artistic touch, it’s nice to be reminded of an auteur’s signature directing style. Depending on whom you are a fan of, Priscilla may or may not be for you.