Review: “Priscilla” brings an honest translation of Priscilla and Elvis Presley’s Relationship

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“Priscilla,” directed by Sofia Coppola, was released throughout the U.S. on Nov. 3. The film is based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir “Elvis and Me.”

Contributed photo by A24.

Coppola announced that she would create a film based on Priscilla’s perspective of Elvis only a few months after “Elvis” premiered in theaters in 2022.

The film is an honest yet subtle depiction of a toxic relationship. Before the film premiered, some thought the beauty of the film would romanticize pedophilia, but instead, the beauty of the film resembles the romanticization of pedophilia in media.

An early scene sets the tone for the entire film: uncomfortable. Elvis (Jacob Elordi) asked the fourteen-year-old to hang out in his bedroom. It progresses like a father’s friend inappropriately flirting with a young girl.

The film highlights Elvis’ controlling tendencies: He controlled what Priscilla wore, her makeup and her hair and told her she must always be available to him.

Many scenes follow Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) alone in Elvis’ house, since he was often away filming movies. The scenes in the house are long and lonely, emphasizing the boredom Priscilla felt. 

Coppola is known for her depictions of loneliness in films such as “Lost in Translation,” “Virgin Suicides,” and “Marie Antoinette.” Her 2006 film “Marie Antoinette” has a very similar storyline to Priscilla, as both films are based on true stories about teenage girls thrown into the “King’s” overwhelming lifestyles.

Both films show the boredom of having nothing to do except rely on their husband. In “Marie Antoinette,” she copes with this boredom by indulging in sweets, shoes and parties. However, Priscilla never truly adjusted to this lifestyle, since the situation was so uncomfortable to begin with.

Although the second half of the film seemed a bit rushed, the last 10 minutes really brought the storyline together.

One of the last scenes is at a dinner, and for the first time, she is surrounded by friends she did not know through Elvis, which was unexpected for viewers since she had only been surrounded by Elvis’ friends before. We see that she is beginning to find a life of her own. She eventually leaves Elvis, and he asks her, “Am I losing you to another man?”

She responds, “You are losing me to a life of my own.”

The ending accentuated Priscilla’s journey into becoming an independent adult.

The set design and costume was much more realistic in “Priscilla” rather than the 2022 “Elvis” film. For example, in “Priscilla” the props and sets department created authentic portraits of Elvis, letters from fans and house decorations. Coppola always puts a lot of energy into the set design, which led the film to overall feel much more genuine than other recent period pieces set in the 60s.

The crew brought the whole film’s aesthetic together by bringing young Priscilla to life with the trademark wig and makeup. Spaeny’s looks in the film felt beautifully realistic, and did not feel like costumes, but as if it was the genuine closet and makeup of the character.

Contributed photo by Rolling Stone.

When Elordi was first cast as Elvis, the internet questioned this choice, but he was perfect for the role, as he not only looks like Elvis, but is also 6 feet 5 inches. 

Elordi’s feels large and powerful in the role, especially next to the small Spaeny. His height symbolizes how Elvis overpowers her — in age, size and status. Elordi’s voice is deep and precise, while Spaeny’s is youthful and innocent. Coppola perfectly displayed the power balance and age gap.

Spaeny, though newer to acting, had an incredible performance in the film and won the award for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. She captured Priscilla’s emotions and thoughts in different moments in a convincing and emotional performance.

While Coppola couldn’t attain the rights to Elvis’ music, she picked a perfect mix of romantic 60’s music, bringing the romance to life. The viewer falls in love with the character of Elvis one moment and hates him the next, and the music puts the viewer in this romantic state of mind. Although it would have been fun to have Elvis’ music in the film, it would have taken the viewer out of Priscilla’s world and mind.

Coppola is my favorite director, and she did an incredible job on this film, despite filming it in only three and a half weeks. Coppola excels at making simple scenes, where the characters are just doing something normal, but they are special because it makes the characters feel human. Her films accentuate specific mannerisms of the characters. 

Coppola does the best job at analyzing humans in her films, and it helps the viewer realize every person is special, even Priscilla who, to many, is simply known as Elvis’ wife. Her films are a great example of realism done exceptionally well, while also incorporating appealing aesthetics.

Although “Priscilla” was a bit monotonous, it makes up for it with the beautiful symbolism and meaning behind every scene.

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Alyssa White
Staff Writer | + posts