Whereas capturing “Priscilla” (2023), Sofia Coppola bumped into finances points. That isn’t shocking contemplating the movie’s daring premise: maybe grown males shouldn’t date youngsters.
Based mostly on Priscilla Presley’s 1985 biography and written and directed by Coppola, “Priscilla” is one other entry into the auteur’s canon devoted to exploring the lives of younger ladies. The movie chronicles the tumultuous relationship between Priscilla and Elvis that started when she was in ninth grade. Whereas there isn’t any scarcity of fogeys who’re keen to commerce their daughters’ youth and sweetness for fame and fortune, Priscilla’s dad and mom didn’t ship her into the limelight — they consented for her to develop up within the shadow of Elvis’s starpower.
Originally of the movie, Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) is a 14-year-old army brat making an attempt to regulate to life abroad. It’s 1959 and her father is stationed in West Germany. But to make associates right here, she dawdles over homework assignments at a diner after faculty. There, a member of Elvis’s (Jacob Elordi) entourage recruits her to attend a celebration with the then 24-year-old singer, who was additionally stationed there on the time.
Feeling responsible about transferring their youngsters midway all over the world, Ann (Dagmara Dominczyk) and Captain Beaulieu (Ari Cohen) permit their daughter to attend a celebration at Elvis’s home. Once they meet and Elvis finds out she is in ninth grade, he jokes that she is “only a child.” Priscilla is happy to be within the presence of a star and too younger to discern a praise from a menace.
All through the movie, Elvis refers to Priscilla as his woman so exhaustively that it begins to sound like an insult. This four-letter phrase is used to disguise his many sins.
Coppola’s path is chock-full of prolonged closeups on Priscilla that really feel as invasive as Elvis’s gaze, however Spaeny by no means overplays the emotion. She telegraphs Priscilla’s impish expressiveness, in addition to the discovered constraint that she develops as Elvis’s cruelty turns into violence. The actress breezily initiatives coldness with out shivering.
Elordi doesn’t seem like Elvis, however he does unbelievable accent work to channel the entertainer’s Southern twang. His slight stutter and propensity to mumble mixed along with his uneasy physique language are notably efficient for charming Priscilla and her dad and mom — showcasing a actuality whereby profitable groomers have accomplices.
Coppola slyly takes intention on the cabal of adults in Priscilla’s life who observe that she is way too younger to be in Elvis’s circle. As a substitute of defending her from his predation, they whisper about her after she leaves the room. Ann does some mild hand-wringing about why Elvis can’t discover somebody his personal age however she is happy with this remaining a rhetorical query.
Ann and Captain Beaulieu in the end permit Priscilla to complete twelfth grade again in the USA close to Elvis’s Graceland property, the place she turns into one other object furnishing his mansion. Elvis dictates Priscilla’s wardrobe decisions and curates the look that turns into her signature — jet black hair and daring eye make-up. Elordi adopts a cocksure stance and places bass in his voice. He’s enjoying dress-up along with his doll, and he doesn’t play properly.
Coppola has a propensity for creating dreamy montages of her feminine protagonists dotingly placing themselves collectively past the watchful eyes of the world. “Priscilla” consists of a number of of those scenes — pink painted toes stepping gingerly on pink carpet, shiny red-lacquered fingernails making use of winged liner and sufficient spritzes of Aqua Web to tease Priscilla’s hair to the heavens. Sadly, as her hair will get larger, her world will get smaller.
Though the movie is visually arresting, there’s an excessive amount of restraint within the depiction of Elvis’s emotional and bodily abuse and the couple’s continual sexual dysfunction after they’re married. The reliance on subtext makes this half really feel like a string of scenes as an alternative of an exploration of her inside life. Coppola paints Priscilla as a survivor with out naming what she has endured.
Disappointingly, extra effort is made to indicate Elvis’s contrition after his violent acts than how these actions impacted Priscilla. Coppola’s filmography has been criticized for eliding problems with race and outright racism. “Priscilla” spans the Nineteen Sixties, and notably there isn’t any direct point out of the period’s political actions.
The latter half of the movie drags because it veers into hagiographic territory (Priscilla Presley herself is credited as an govt producer, which can clarify the saintly depiction). Priscilla is initially ambivalent about turning into a mom, however we don’t see how she resolves this rigidity. It’s unclear how she feels about being uncared for in her marriage at the same time as she is making an attempt to depart it. As a substitute, we see her busy herself with actions — martial arts, swimming and internet hosting numerous dinner company.
Being long-suffering could also be noble, nevertheless it doesn’t make for an attention-grabbing narrative arc. Nonetheless, Coppola’s “Priscilla” manages to interrogate what’s at stake in our idealization of public figures. Cash can be utilized to insulate oneself from issues confronted by the plenty, however celeb — and even adjacency to it — can deliver its personal set of misfortunes.
Editor’s Be aware: This text is a evaluate and incorporates subjective ideas, opinions and critiques.