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There is only one thing a movie about Elvis Presley has to be — gigantic. Presley was nothing but, and if a film about him can’t accomplish anything else, it needs to be just as big of a shining star as he was. Baz Luhrmann’s eponymous “Elvis” delivers an immense portrayal of the King, and even when it’s not good, it’s grand. 

This is Luhrmann’s first feature in nine years after “The Great Gatsby” in 2013. For those who know Luhrmann well, this is unmistakably his film. It’s complete with dizzying editing, shots filled to the absolute brim and intimate cinematography. This movie is a true indulgence for Luhrmann, but it works for the subject matter. In “The Great Gatsby,” Luhrmann’s tell-tale direction often left the film feeling even more disconnected from the source material, but similar techniques complimented the grand story of Presley. 

One contentious choice in “The Great Gatsby” was the use of modern music — Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful,” written for the film, was used a tiresome amount. However, since “Elvis” is a story explicitly about music, the soundtrack provided a bridge from Presley to now. By including modern artists like Doja Cat, Måneskin and Kacey Musgraves, Luhrmann shows Presley’s impact today without having to say anything, something he isn’t always the best at. 

The writing in this movie is a tad lacking, but only if you’re picky about subtlety. It’s an obvious script for an over-the-top film, so at the very least, it fits the tone created by the editing and direction. Complaining about the script in a movie this dense with visuals is futile; the writing is not the point here. 

The worst part of this film is no doubt Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker, Presley’s manager and the main perspective the script takes. In short, Hanks looks really weird in this film. Thankfully, Luhrmann decided only one fat suit was necessary, but he went all in for Hanks’ look. He’s deeply pudgy in the face and is pretty accurate to the real-life Parker, but hints of Hanks seep through and end up making Parker even scarier. Parker is a malicious figure, but some of Hanks’ evil stares and mildly Dutch-accented rants come off as a comedy bit. The best comparison I have to offer is Jared Leto in last year’s “House of Gucci,” except Hanks’ character is completely unaware of the joke he’s telling. His performance is ultimately the weakest point of the film, but even then, the absurdity of Parker sometimes serves it well. 

Perhaps the greatest feat of all is Luhrmann’s direction of Austin Butler as Presley. Butler has a somewhat limited filmography; he was in “The Dead Don’t Die” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and has had a few one-off or small character roles in TV shows like “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide” and “Zoey 101.” Even with his limited big-role experience, Butler knocks it out of the park. 

Butler is able to capture the spectacular and grand essence of Presley and more — he portrays the charming intricacies and bold broad strokes of Presley and delivers a much more grounded performance than his counterpart. Sure, parts are still a tad exaggerated due to the nature of a Luhrmann biopic, but Butler is one to keep an eye on. In the earlier musical sequences, Butler is singing on his own, and the resemblance to Presley is quite impressive. Later on in the film, Presley and Butler’s voices are combined seamlessly.

There comes a tricky line to hold in biopic performances like Butler’s: the difference between an impression and impersonation. Butler isn’t just doing an impression of Presley with constant lines like “thank you, thank you very much” or other borderline insulting traits, but instead, he succeeds in impersonating and melting into the role of Presley. With the aforementioned immensity of this film, a stellar performance is fundamental, and Butler carries it all. 

Moments in this film are jaw-dropping — some of which are due to Luhrmann’s usual charms — but most of them come from Butler. If you’re looking for the most eloquent and well-mannered film of the year, this isn’t it, but it’s a fun time complete with a must-see performance from Butler. 

“Elvis” is in theaters now.