Priscilla review: The anti-Elvis by Sofia Coppola

Kelly Spaeny applies makeup with a hand mirror.

Priscilla Review: The Anti-Elvis by Sofia Coppola

“With Priscilla, Sofia Coppola again enjoys the cosmetic frills of a sentence in a dollhouse.”


  • It’s emotionally intelligent

  • it is beautifully made

  • Cailee Spaeny delivers a poignant natural performance


  • it’s a touch repetition

  • Coppola has explored these themes before

At 25 years old and only 5 feet, 1 inch tall, Cailee Spaeny is both older and younger than the character she plays as a captive state in Sofia Coppola’s latest daydream of fame and fortune. It’s the height we pay attention to. “She’s like a little girl,” someone says of Priscilla Beaulieu, a teenager drawn into the glamorous life of an adult music superstar. In fact, Elvis Presley had 10 years, but he was only six inches tall. And Priscilla Height disparity is exaggerated to emphasize age differences. Standing next to all 6 feet, 5 inches of Jacob Elordi, this Priscilla really does look like a baby. Of course, she was like that when she met the king only 14 years into her life.

Their first encounter took place in 1959 in West Germany. He was posted there for a few years during his military service. She was an army brat. A friend of Elvis’ saw him in a café and offered to take him to a party to meet the world’s biggest star – an invitation that suspiciously resembled a scouting mission. “She is far more mature than her age,” Presley later told Priscilla’s parents when they asked why an older man of his fame was pursuing their ninth-grade daughter. It’s the kind of thing adults say when they cajole children.

Priscilla comes after a year elvis, Baz Luhrmann’s frenetic biopic jamboree, which took a sweeping view of its subject’s life and career, trying to capture decades of cultural impact in a few hours. There, the future Mrs. Presley was played by Olivia DeJonge, who was confident and bubbly in a brief performance that could have been called a cameo. Luhrmann appears to have taken the notion that the two were kindred spirits united by loneliness at face value. Coppola, director of such pictures of restless youth virgin suicides And somewhereMore interested in the fundamental imbalance of their relationship – the disparities created by age and gender and the sheer weight of supernova stardom.

There is something of a dreamy sadness to his success in the opening scenes, lost in Translation, another film about an older man and a younger woman meeting in a country that is not their own, and overcoming their mutual homesickness with an erotic romance. Elordi’s Elvis is absolutely stunningly honest – channeling his attraction to Priscilla’s teenage wavelength, doing a kind of intimate, acoustic rendition of his magazine appeal. The Australian actor isn’t a dead ringer for the real Presley, but like Austin Butler, he’s channeling more than imitating. In silhouette, the illusion is convincing. Coppola hooks us into the allure of Elvis’ music without overusing it – it’s a neat trick.

Kelly Spenny watches unhappily as the soldiers push her back through the crowd of screaming fans.
Cali Spaeny Inn Priscilla A24/A24

Just before abandoning her to a crowd of screaming fans and flying back into the flashbulbs of Hollywood and Nashville, he tells his sweetheart, “Promise me you’ll stay the way you are right now.” Two years passed before he could free her from his attentions again. It is the innocence of the girl he loves and attracts, her youth he wants to keep behind a mirror like a gold record. Coppola, always attuned to the itchy desires of girls ensconced in luxury, contrasts Priscilla’s blossoming sexuality with the King’s obsession with her chastity. He doesn’t want a girlfriend but a doll; He reserves his libido for various co-stars and celebrities, whom he has in bed next to him.

You can call it anti-elvis, both in its narrow, subjective focus – in contrast to Luhrmann’s Wikipedia review – and its refusal to include a mythological perspective on Elvis himself, who is portrayed as an emotionally absent control freak. Taking inspiration from her subject’s memoirs, Coppola follows a cycle of awakening, as Priscilla goes from blushing child bride to dissatisfied trophy wife, the tractor beam of showbiz charm gradually weakening as the fairy tale ends. It happens. Coppola doesn’t rush that awakened awareness. part of the astute emotional intelligence of Priscilla It’s how it portrays courtship through the girl’s infatuated eyes, while letting us see how much of a teenager she really was. Spenny resists all temptations to take Presley’s admiring comments as direction, playing Priscilla as mature beyond her years or worldly, too wise.

Like Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, she falls into a kind of arranged marriage (“I’ll handle it,” Elvis promises any time the matter of parental permission comes up), and the southern manor of Graceland, Is sent to an American castle. She’s not always or ever alone – during the long months when Elvis is away shooting or on tour she’s left to hang like an ornament, then when he’s home she hangs out at his Memphis Mafia boy’s club. Is surrounded by. One might also think of Princess Diana, with her in-laws tightening the proverbial blinds and warning of eyes looking beyond the gates. The tragedy of the story is that of a man swallowed up by his proximity to fame; She may simply be an assistant to the legend she’s married to – a beautiful extension of his star power.

Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi pose for wedding photos near the cake.
Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi Priscilla A24/A24

Elegant interiors, lavish costumes, cars and designer pets given as gifts – as always, Coppola enjoys the cosmetic charm of a pun in Dollhouse. And in literal cosmetics too – the film opens in media reserve with Priscilla applying makeup in close-up, and later comes back to give us the complete absurd context of her preparations, a beauty regimen imposed on someone who Whose every life experience has become a PR opportunity or public spectacle. You almost have to wonder if this stuff Very Suitable for Coppola. There is no friction between Priscilla’s limited dream life and the director’s usual preoccupation with keeping money like a cage, as seen in almost every poetic drama he has made before.

and for all methods Priscilla acts as the inverse of elvis, both films arguably suffer the same disastrous outcome – inevitably collapsing at bad times. The final part of the film is a continuing blur of unhappiness, a slow comedown. Priscilla, awakening from the dream that swallowed her childhood, finally sees her life for what it has become: a collapsing bubble of boredom and loneliness, free of agency. At a certain point, the audience may feel trapped in that bubble with her, and may be just as eager to get out of Graceland.

Priscilla Now playing in select theatres; It will open wide on Friday, November 3. For more of AA Dowd’s writings, please visit his author page.

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