MOVIE REVIEW: Elvis and Nixon

In 1970 Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, went to Washington to see Richard Nixon, the then President of the USA, to ask to be made a Federal Agent at Large.  His belief was that because of his stardom he could befriend the drug dealers and the subversives that were, in his mind, destroying the America that they loved.  At first Nixon is dismissive of the idea, but the relentless pursuit of the meeting by both men’s teams meant that it did.

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When you first hear the premise of this film, the King of Rock and Roll meeting with one of the most corrupt Presidents or at least the most openly known corrupt President, you start to wonder what is going on with Hollywood.  Then you learn that this is a true story and your interest is piqued more than ever before.  You have to forget what you think about both men and get to know a part of them that has been hidden from the history books.

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Elvis is played by Michael Shannon, and is played as a man who knows who he wants to be and who he is.  Getting tired of being treated as a child and wanting to use his fame for more than making money and getting the girls.  He wants to be of use to his country.  Shannon is one of those actors who can be believable as any character he turns his hand to.  In the last year alone he’s been a crooked real estate agent, a Father willing to do anything for his son, and now the King of Rock and Roll.  It’s an honest pleasure to watch him act and the differing roles that he picks always makes the next film a surprise for the fans.  Kevin Spacey is playing another President here, instead of Francis Underwood he is playing the similarly corrupt Richard Nixon.  Spacey’s Nixon is as close to the real man as any other actor that has managed to play him in the past.   The rest of the cast includes Johnny Knoxville, Alex Pettyfer, and Colin Hanks, and they all add to the comedic tapestry that keeps you going.

The 1970’s is beautifully staged and the production values are high.  Liza Johnson and the scriptwriters create the world of the 70’s with amazing reality and the script plus the soundtrack keep you smiling through the whole film.  One of the best scenes, and there are plenty to pick from, is the moment where Elvis is taken from his crew to have the protocols gone through for meeting the President, at the same time, Elvis’ crew takes a White House staffer into a room and explains the protocols that Elvis has for meeting with him.  It is these light-hearted touches that makes you sit there for the well-balanced running time with a goofy smile on your face.  But sitting there smiling for just over an hour and a half is one of the reasons that I love cinema.  This is a perfect film to take you out of whatever troubles you have in your life and just escape.

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While this may not be the typical Summer blockbuster movie that has all the explosions and high-octane chases that we’re used to during the hotter weather months, it is one of the better films we’re going to see during this time.  With performances by Shannon and Spacey that don’t feel like by the numbers impersonations that show different and mostly before unseen sides to these characters.  It’s nice to know that Nixon may have had a sense of humour, it’s nice to know that The King thought about more than his stardom.

Director: Liza Johnson
Writers: Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal, Cary Elwes
Stars: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Alex Pettyfer

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