Elvis & Nixon

Dir: Liza Johnson, 2016



Comedy or drama? True or false?

In 1970 the biggest superstar in the world met the most important man in the world.

Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley is so wrong in the role. In all fairness, there was only one Elvis. Everything Elvis had he was born with. You can’t replicate that.

There are thousands of Presley impersonators in America alone. No matter how good of a mimic you are, or how good at pulling the moves off, you will never have that…thing…that Elvis had. That was natural to him. He didn’t have to work at it.

Shannon doesn’t sound like Elvis. Or look like him. Or stand like him. Or walk like him. Or…I’ve made my point. Have a look:

Shannon looks like a young Richard Kiel. I kept expecting him to snarl a multitude of metallic teeth at the screen:

Actually, come to think of it, did you ever see “Mask” with Eric Stoltz as Rocky Dennis?

I’m not quite sure what angle the film was going for but Elvis is depicted as not being quite right in the head. A fantasist. Delusional. A bit mad.

Maybe, to a degree, he was like that. His whole idea of being a narcotics agent for the FBI is a bit out there but, I’m pretty sure, he wasn’t as bad as this makes him.

Then we have Kevin Spacey as President Richard Nixon. Again, he isn’t right. I fully understand that it’s incredibly difficult to get an actor that resembles the person they playing but Spacey isn’t anything like Nixon. Not his voice, or his mannerisms. Nothing says President Nixon in his portrayal.

On another tier, it could be taken as a spoof about a real event that happened. Seeing as nobody knows what occurred during the infamous meeting, this is pure speculation and played for laughs. It’s more comedy than drama.

I’m not entirely sure that they did as much research as they should. I understand that Nixon didn’t trust, or particularly like, Elvis but, here, he seems quite taken and actually fond of him.

Presley was a gun obsessive. This is true. The film has the King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll carrying all manner of concealed guns. I can’t offer any veracity to this but to walk into the Oval Office with a gun? I’m dubious.

Nixon hadn’t installed his infamous recording system at this point so we only have the word of the president’s aides and, let’s be honest, the White House is not exactly the most forthcoming and truthful of places. And Presley insisted on the meeting being secret. Plus, Nixon was notoriously paranoid and it makes me doubt that the official statement is as truthful as they want you to believe.

As groundbreaking and, in a way, rebellious as he was, did he really break protocol in meeting the president? Not entirely convinced.

But, this is comedy. It’s played for laughs. Some of it works, the rest not.

We’re supposed to laugh at The King’s idiosyncrasies and Tricky Dicky’s hesitance at meeting him. The uncomfortable display exhibited by Nixon is also there for the taking.

It’s not a bad film. Not great. Not awful. Just not bad. At a little over eighty minutes it certainly passes the time and muster for a laid back evening. Don’t expect anything exemplary.

Enjoyable as a stand alone story. As long as you don’t take it for an actual account you can get some pleasure out of it.


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