There’s no question that the acting from these impressive male leads is what makes the film. Aside from the twinkling presence they both radiate, I feel this film goes down a bonkers route about a seriously odd meeting in a way that’s less than dominating than it should be.
Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) sees himself as a potential figure of hope and anti-drugs for the youth. He gets an idea to have a meeting with the President to gain a badge and become an agent at large. POTUS Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) is at first against the idea but soon realises this meeting could prove very popular and so, on December 21st 1970, these two famous men meet.
Before the trailers I had no idea that this meeting ever took place, something I’m sure Elvis Presley would be glad about. He wanted it to be a secret, he wanted badges and control and clearly aiming for the President was the logical step. I’m glad I’ve seen this movie just for the fact in seeing something so absurd yet knowing it happened makes it even more unusual.
Liza Johnson does a great job in building up the apprehension of the real life based plot. We see Presley and Nixon at varying times, we see the men that aid their lives and so we sort of sit on the edge of our seats waiting for the inevitable meeting to take place. This comedy slash drama falls under sparkle yet no bang. There is no grand or even rewarding pay off by the end of this film, the Oval Office scene between these powerhouses of America is like a dud sparkler on Bonfire Night.
It could be called a bio-pic but then as no recordings took place in the office of Nixon until a year later, who’s to say how much of this movie is taking cinematic liberties just for entertainment purposes. I realise that Nixon’s hand Egil Krogh made notes on the event but apart from the photograph and his scribbles, there’s times that this movie makes things feel larger than life and I couldn’t swallow them as facts, comedy or entertaining. The film kind of feels off in a few places, whether it’s the lack of substance or the somewhat slow pacing, which is a shame considering the acting talent involved.
Michael Shannon dons a wig and shades in a convincing manner to portray the King of Rock and Roll. He has the hand gestures and deep drone voice down to an art and makes Elvis come alive in a charismatic way, even if there’s a couple of occasions where he catches your eye as a Vegas impersonator and looks oddly cheap. Kevin Spacey is perfect as Nixon I think, the jowly gravel tone of his voice and the hunched cross armed poses, he does a stellar job as the President. Colin Hanks and Evan Peters are both likable in their roles and Alex Pettyfer plays Presley PA/friend Jerry Schilling with a needed human touch amongst the caricature nature everywhere else.
Not as fascinating as I hoped, Elvis certainly enters the building with swagger but a meeting like this comes across like Heartbreak Hotel and not Whitehouse Rock.