By Adam Ray Palmer
Today's review would have been a difficult one to write had I not liked the film. Luckily for Elvis & Nixon, I very much enjoyed it.
I visited one of my favourite cinemas in the form of Phoenix Leicester to see a movie about one of my favourite artists ever in the form of The King.
To say I was brimming with excitement was understatement, but having followed Mr. Presley's life so closely with even a trip to Memphis; I had fears it would have been a Hollywood mess...
Elvis & Nixon follows the true story of when The King of rock n roll wanted to meet the then King of the United States of America, Richard Nixon. The meeting at the White House occurred in 1970 when Elvis wanted to talk over drug abuse and the American youth with the president. The King's aim? To gain a federal badge and be undercover at large!
That synopsis hardly sounds true does it? Well it is, and theirs evidence to prove it. I knew about this story from a few years ago but I didn't realise to what extent Elvis went for this meeting. Plus, as there were no transcripts or recordings of their time together; how can people know exactly what went on? Enter Jerry Schilling.
Jerry Schilling is the important component to this film as I'm sure most Elvis fans will understand. Jerry was a life-long friend of Elvis' since the tender age of 12 when they played football together. Flash forward 25 years and Schilling was the man in the Oval Office with Presley at the time of the famous meet. Why am I telling you this? Well, Jerry Schilling executive produced this film which gives the whole story validation. He can therefore verify everything that went on in that room.
We begin the movie with Elvis in his den watching television. He notices everything on TV is negative and he worries about the youth being brought up on this material. So he calls Jerry in LA who works for Paramount and they both end flying to Washington DC to set up a chat with the president.
Once they arrive, you learn more and more about the King and the friends around him. As it took roughly three days to get clearance for the meeting, we notice Elvis' foundations are perhaps a reason why he was a bit barmy, and more than likely off his head, as he didn't really have a great support network. Jerry Schilling (played by Alex Pettyfer) was a true friend that had Elvis' best interests at heart, but Sonny (played by Johnny Knoxville) used the fame Presley had to gain leverage wherever he could. This is the emotive side of the film, the second act is a little more humorous and mind-boggling.
The film builds up impressively to the Oval Office moment, up to this point you're just hurrying the movie along. As Elvis enters the building (sorry), that's when everyone perks up to see what exactly went on. It does state at the beginning of the film that there are no transcripts of the meeting, but again, Schilling is decent verification.
Everything Elvis is told not to do, he does. And everything else that was a polite gesture, he ignores. The meet starts off delicately, but it soon turns into gunslinging and karate flicking - I'm not joking. As a gift, Elvis gives the president a gun but also honours him with a personal show of his Karate knowledge. Whether that was true or not, it's a delight to watch.
Michael Shannon plays a difficult role well. Elvis is of course well documented and has been visualised on screen many times. Michael gives us his own interpretation and it's good enough, the film is more about the meeting so it doesn't depend on his impression. Kevin Spacey is in the same boat, his Nixon is more impressive but again, the movie doesn't depend. Alex Pettyfer also puts in a good shift as does Johnny Knoxville playing the more comedic rogue role of Sonny.
I'm quite pleased with the finished product, you don't need to be a fan of Elvis to appreciate this film; if anything, that could have been a curse. It's more about a historic moment that reveals the story behind the most requested photo in the history of the public library. From feeling apprehensive to being satisfied, I'm off to get a hamburger and listen to If I Can Dream.
Cineroom's Rating: 4 Stars
Elvis & Nixon ended its stay at the Phoenix Leicester this week but can be caught on a limited UK release - certificate 15