‘Priscilla’: Sofia Coppola destroys the myth of Elvis as a man

Director Sofia Coppola herself foresaw this: The Presley Manor did not like my film, and fans of the king of rock and roll will not like it either. This is not a promotional shot, but an observation: the only firm decision that the film “Priscilla” makes is to bust the myth of a male Elvis neglecting his music career.

A strong and non-obvious choice, including in the light of the fact that The movie is called Priscilla. neither “Priscilla Presley” nor “Priscilla Ann Wagner Beaulieu”, Elvis’ wife’s maiden name. The film is based on the autobiographical book of a woman who, at a young age, first experienced her marriage to a planetary myth, and then the actual death of her ex-husband.

Only Priscilla, just as Queen Marie Antoinette was only Marie Antoinette in the 2003 film of the same name, a film that remains the American director’s most famous film to this day. The two films are very similar in aesthetics and setting. However, Marie Antoniette is definitely more successful because it gives voice to its sad teenage queen, while Priscilla really fails to do justice to its main character.

Priscilla focuses on relationship between a very young texas schoolgirl who followed the family to a US military base in West Germany and young Elviswho lives on the basis of the military service stationed there. Priscilla is a bored Britney Spears in the 1998 Baby One More Time video. without the sexualizing look that the record companies of the day were aiming for. The same clean face, the same pastel-colored sweaters, the same bored leg movements in class. She is the epitome of the American Elvis fan who doing my homework at the local diner while sipping a Coke from a glass bottle with white and red straw .

Immediately Priscilla he’s not exactly an intriguing person, she has nothing particularly interesting to tell: she is a shy and polite girl who appreciates the attention of a star and reciprocates it. Priscilla is the obedient and somewhat bored daughter who sulks about being away from Austin’s friends. What does Elvis see in her? Yes, he is young, but no longer a teenager and already a star. There are more interesting women around him, but he is frightened by their physicality, their strength: most of all he is afraid that he is not a man enough, man, macho.

However, it is difficult to understand what Priscilla sees in him besides the boy who “needs” her. Thus, Priscilla becomes a living symbol of the Americanness that is absent from the life of an ordinary Presley. the embodiment of gentle and feminine purity something he doesn’t find among his noisy and brash fans.

It’s as if Coppola saw Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis (2022) — a film in which Priscilla plays nothing more than an extra — and decided to tweak the shot. Obviously, it’s not about the timing of production, but it’s interesting how Coppola reveals Luhrmann’s work on the Elvis myth.

The king is never here: his music is relegated to the background, practically absent, the only exhibition presented depicts him from behind, against the light, while he makes moves for the Las Vegas audience: he imitates them. Priscilla Above All portrait of a cruel and manipulative manwho locks his girlfriend in a gilded prison and denounces any hint of independence or individuality.

He always wants her to be ready to take his calls at home while he’s away for weeks, doesn’t let her work or bring “strangers” to Graceland, showers her with gifts that make her look more and more like a doll. He can dictate her appearance, choose the colors and prints he can wear, making her a female version of herself. Not just a manipulator: Elvis is weak too dependent on his father and the colonel, who feels threatened by every display of power from Priscilla. Indeed, very rare performances.

Particularly interesting is a conversation about the intimate life of a couple: Elvis is older, but in his personal life he behaves like a clumsy teenager, even after the wedding. He constantly extinguishes Priscilla’s love impulses, dictates the time of sex, mostly in denial. If she doesn’t play the obedient doll, he threatens to send her home. If he is not enthusiastic when asked about it, he will throw a chair at her.

First as a wife, then as a mother, Priscilla gains the detachment she needs to return this manipulation to the sender. Then it will be she who will welcome with icy calmness Elvis’ requests for space to distract his rare outbursts of rage until the decision to leave him matures.

A solution that matures away from the Priscilla scenes: movie finale brutal montage this doesn’t close the movie, it cuts it off. Right on top.

In fact, if Elvis is both an executioner and a weakling, then Priscilla is nothing or nothing. Here is the main flaw of Coppola’s film: in any case, it runs the risk of making the character he would like to put aside more interesting.. Elvis is cruel and domineering, but he tries to find stimuli and interests in his own way, whether they are holy men, LSD, or sages of the new age.

Instead, Priscilla in an American setting (nail polishes, guns, clothes, cosmetics, knick-knacks and drugs)and sits neatly on the couch with his poodle. The film hints at her failure as a mother, her existential boredom, but it doesn’t make us look back, let alone understand how she put the pieces together and knew it was time to move on.

Unlike what happened in Marie Antoinette, here Coppola is too focused on collecting stickers and Elvis’ bad luck, such a little man to give Priscilla a voice. In the last scenes of the film, we see her creating her own space, trying new things, meeting new people. Although it’s not clear how did he get out of prisonhow important motherhood was, how you feel as a mother, as a wife, as the Queen of Graceland. When Priscilla starts to become an interesting person, when she finds herself and her voice, the film stops.

Despite good game Caylee Spaeny, Priscilla remains a vanilla-scented film, far from the multifaceted portrait of its protagonist who he wasn’t even given life after Elvis. A strange fate for a film that wants to tell about another imprisoned queen, but ends up losing interest in her as soon as she walks away from her fallen king.

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