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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

REVIEW: Priscilla Beaulieu’s biopic spotlights the woman behind Elvis’s wife, public interpretation. 

Illustration+of+Priscilla%3A+The+puzzle+of+a+woman+shadowed+by+a+worldwide+phantasm+figure.
Gabrielle Caumon / Hilltop Views
Illustration of Priscilla: The puzzle of a woman shadowed by a worldwide phantasm figure.

Sofia Coppola’s new chef d’œuvre strikes again in theaters as she invites viewers to step inside of the toxic and uncomfortable romance between an innocent young girl and the King of Rock and Roll at his peak—combining passion, chaos, tension and idolization.

Released on Oct. 27, 2023, the movie is based on the 1985 Priscilla Presley memoir “Elvis and Me” to portray an authentic version of who she was. Coppola pushes the audience to reconsider the popular envy we have about the Presleys’ idyll by giving Priscilla the opportunity to narrate her love story with Elvis from her perspective. 

Coppola collaborated with A24, adding a personal signature that never disappoints. Some would probably agree that Coppola has a specific characteristic in her directing that makes each of her movies a unique, aesthetically pleasing journey. Her screenplays are authentic and original, not to mention her detailed use of cinematography to portray various stories upon the big screen. Coppola directs purposefully and creatively to convey many contradicting emotions. For me, the visuals of a movie are much more impactful than the writing, and she is stunning in this domain, notably with other films such as “Lost in Translation” and “The Virgin Suicides.” 

Thus, it is safe to say that there were high expectations for this release. 

“Priscilla” is a poisonous treat to watch. Coppola enhances the movie’s quality with the reconstitution of Priscilla’s real-life moments, bringing the audience back to the somber reality of this tumultuous relationship.

Coppola does an incredible job alternating between the conflictual aspects of innocence vs. dominance. She makes us realize that something is not right as we progressively enter into Priscilla and Elvis’ intimacy. 

One thing is for sure: Coppola is not scared of showing an eager, controlling Elvis that drags Priscilla down with him through his avidity of power. 

 

Costumes and makeup 

Coppola uses Priscilla’s fashion to portray the evolution of her struggle with identity, haunted by the heavy influence of Elvis. There is a visible arc in Priscilla’s development throughout the movie. In the beginning, she wears a lot of pastel and brownish colors, puff-out frilly dresses and, of course, her heart-shaped choker — what one might expect a 14-year-old girl to wear in the 60s. However, once Elvis starts to dress her, we can see a radical change: Priscilla seems to have become his life-size baby doll. She dyes her hair black, adopts her signature winged eyeliner, wears brighter colors and tighter clothes that accentuate her shape. Coppola makes it clear that Elvis wants Priscilla to look older for his public image. Then, when the couple starts to grow apart, Priscilla pairs mature-shaped clothes with her original pastels and brownish tones. Her personality seems to reappear while remaining obviously marked by Elvis’ influence. 

 

The Cast

The choice of the casting works very well. It is a remarkably young Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) that we watch on screen beside a 6-foot-5 Elvis (Jacob Elordi). I think we have the tendency to omit that Elvis was 24 years old when he started to flirt with a 14-year-old. The fact that Spaeny literally looks like a child for three fourths of the movie creates a disturbing contrast with a grown, well into adulthood Elvis.

I was not thrilled at first when I saw that Elordi would be the one to embody Elvis, especially after Austin Butler’s amazing performance in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic “Elvis,” which was released a year ago. However, my jaw dropped in surprise while watching. While Elordi did not have the perfect matching voice or face shape, he was very believable. For once, this movie was not about his achievements, but rather him at home — outside of the fans’ gaze. This is where we see the charming Elvis slowly become Pricilla’s nightmare. The audience witnesses their downfall as Spaeny and Elordi depict the less-known side of their love story, digging into the lonely and violent nature that constitutes their relationship off the stage. 

Overall, I am glad Coppola released a biopic centered on Priscilla’s story. She added the slice of life that was missing in Luhrmann’s version. To have Priscilla’s direct experience is very touching and effective. Probably no one can talk better about the special bond Priscilla and Elvis had than Priscilla herself, with a little boost from a talented director to make it vibrant on the silver screen.

The cinema could benefit from more movies like “Priscilla.” Coppola exposes an untold, but unfortunately common story of a woman scarred for life by an intense man’s love, most have all blindly fantasized about, and how she found the courage to escape out of it. It gets a well-deserved five out of five goats.

 

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About the Contributor
Gabrielle Caumon, Staff Writer
Gabrielle Caumon is a junior from Paris, France, who is pursuing a major in the BFA Acting program and a minor in Journalism. This is her second semester writing for Hilltop Views and her first as a Staff Writer. She loves writing for the Life & Arts section, and is excited to branch out and try out other genres.

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  • L

    Liam MolinaJan 16, 2024 at 6:39 pm

    Great article Gaby! Makes me wanna watch the movie!

    Reply
  • T

    Tate BurchfieldNov 29, 2023 at 3:03 pm

    What an interesting dissection of the movie, I think the soundtrack is also something that deserves to be noted as well. Coppola’s selections were nuanced and beautiful, a talent that has been shown in her other works too.

    Reply