By Emma Dognin
Last year Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic was a hit, winning various awards including a Golden Globe. The film told the story of legendary rockstar Elvis Presley (played by Austin Butler) and his rise to fame, as well as the corruption within the industry. Elvis (2022) however, did not talk much about his wife Priscilla, who was skimmed over as a mere background character.
This all changes in Sofia Coppola’s "Priscilla", a film adaption of Priscilla Presley’s memoir Elvis and Me. The film follows the life of Priscilla Presley from her adolescence to the end of her marriage with Elvis Presley — taking a new perspective to the story of Elvis.
Coppola explores the alarming dynamics between Priscilla and Elvis, as well as the age gap between the two (they met when she was fourteen and he was twenty-four). You can see the slightly abusive dynamics of the relationship and Priscilla’s lack of control over her own life — presumably due to her age and being a woman. At the time, this might not have been as unusual, but watching it in modern times there is definitely something unsettling about their relationship.
The film follows a more common theme in works in literature and films today — the lives of melancholic women. Throughout the film you see the emptiness of the luxurious life, and how it is all is deliciously manicured to portray a certain image. Priscilla is made to be as Elvis wants her to appear. She is a woman always polished to look glamorous (even in labor!), with hair to match the latest trends, heavy makeup and extravagant attire — he even makes her dye her hair jet black to match his and controls what colors she is allowed to wear. Priscilla acted much like a housewife and her life was entirely centered on being Elvis Presley’s wife. Priscilla spent most of their marriage waiting for Elvis to come home. Further, Elvis did not allow her to get a job, insisting as his wife, she was responsible for staying home and being available if he ever needed her. This portraying a lot about the 60’s patriarchal society and the role of housewives — while also deeply embodying the feeling of loneliness and yearning through each scene.
Exploring larger themes we see abusive relationships, being a woman in a male dominated society and the problems of being in the spotlight — while maintaining an image to make one fall in love with the style of the 60’s aesthetic.
Priscilla Presley is played by Cailee Spaeny a young actress who brilliantly portrays the awkwardness and shyness of an angsty teenager, while also adding just the right amount of sadness and loneliness to the character’s expressions as she ages. Elvis is played by Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi who does an eerily good job at portraying the deep, husky voice of Elvis Presley as well as portraying his clear anger issues.
While her memoir ended with Elvis’ death, the movie takes a different spin on its closure.
The movie ends in a way that is deeply empowering for women, as Priscilla leaves Elvis and asks for a divorce — finally taking power over her own life. This allows the movie to be about her and taking charge of her own life — instead of being solely focused on the life (and death) of Elvis and being his wife.
Overall, the film is enticing — even if you are not a fan of Elvis or Priscilla Presley, you are sure to be drawn into the magnetic 60’s aesthetic and their intriguing life stories.