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Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

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“Priscilla:” A Calm And Collected Biopic

Screengrab+from+the+movie+Priscilla+released+in+theaters+on+October+27%2C+2023.
Screengrab from the movie “Priscilla” released in theaters on October 27, 2023.

Once again capturing a lonely star, Sophia Coppola brings us the latest film about the King of Rock, this time focusing on his famous wife Priscilla Presley. Her previous work including “Lost in Translation” and “Marie Antoinette” perpetuates themes of isolation as people reach untouchable levels of fame. “Priscilla” gives us a new perspective on the dangers of celebrity.

Based on the memoir the real-life Mrs. Presley wrote titled, “Elvis and Me” Coppola’s film documents Priscilla’s life while she is with Elvis, starting all the way back in 1959 and leading through their divorce in 1973.

A general spots a young Priscilla sipping a coke at a diner on a German air force base where her father is stationed and asks if she is an Elvis fan. In the late 50s who isn’t, but when the general asks Priscilla if she wants to meet the world-famous singer her interest is peaked, as is ours. The audience of course knows they will one day be married, but how they get there is what holds our attention.

Elvis, who mind you is about 24 at this time, takes a liking to 14-year-old Priscilla. During the “small gatherings” at his place Elvis likes talking to people from home, and finds conversation easy with her, soon asking her to follow him to his bedroom. Now, it’s not exactly what you think, he doesn’t make any passes, but the alarming age difference does make it feel off-putting. Which is essentially what can be used to describe their relationship going forward. It’s not exactly the happy picturesque romance we might have imagined.

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As their relationship propels forward through time, Cailee Spaeny continuously plays the same character, capturing the broad age differences with strokes of genius. Spaeny manages to maintain the sweet juvenile innocence of a young teenager and the sophistication of a mom and public figure all within the 2-hour span of the film. A less accomplished film would have had several actors play Priscilla, but placing trust in an actor’s range is one of this movie’s strengths. If this doesn’t warrant Spaeny an Oscar nomination, it will certainly push her acting career forward.

Jacob Elordi (this film’s Elvis impersonator) isn’t the focus of the film, but nonetheless provides a notable performance. It is so strikingly different from any version of Elvis we have come to know. There’s a harshness to his tone that doesn’t at all feel familiar. He is manipulative and aggressive. Stripping the film of any of Elvis’s songs takes away what made the man famous, leaving us with a much colder celebrity.

The obvious parallel here is last year’s Baz Lurman Elvis movie, which is far different from “Priscilla.” One is bold and flashy, while the other is more subtle and filled with dramatic tension. Coppola takes the time to offer a new side to a story we all know, one that is lonelier and more isolated than we could ever imagine. The strictly feminine perspective of one of American pop culture’s heroes, makes us question what goes on behind closed doors, what fame really does to a person, and how women’s voices are once again silenced.

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About the Contributor
Cassandra Bauer, Film Reviewer
Cassandra Bauer (she/her/hers) is the Film Reviewer for The Winonan and started in Fall 2022. She is currently a third-year at Winona State University majoring in Film Studies and minoring in Journalism and Creative Digital Media. Outside of the Winonan, Bauer likes going to local coffee shops, attending yoga classes, reading celebrity memoirs, and of course watching movies. She also loves spending time with her friends, working at the movie theater in her hometown, and playing tennis.

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