Elvis & Nixon

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This is more a character sketch than a story, but with two figures of such note any story would have felt forced. What is amazing is watching Michael Shannon (Midnight Special) and Kevin Spacey (Margin Call), neither of whom is really a close double for their real-life counterparts, make you see them as those characters. They each capture just enough of the root mannerisms and speech to transform themselves.

Supporting them are a number of smaller roles that tie it all together. Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) is the subtlest of the group, delivering a great man-of-the-times in personal crisis as part of Elvis’ retinue. On the Nixon side, Evan Peters (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Colin Hanks (Dexter) form the basis of humanity around the insanity of the White House, and do so hysterically.

Director Johnson (Hateship Loveship) took the script with an utterly absurd premise from the relatively untried Sagals and Elwes (Shadow of the Vampire) and made it compelling. The group succeeded because they embraced that absurdity but supported it with an unexpected humanity amidst the comedy. The result is neither reality nor satire. The film is something more of a musing on the personalities involved and a mirror on ourselves as to how we view the famous and powerful. Cleverly, in a movie about Elvis, Johnson resisted using a single Elvis song, further forcing you to view him as the man rather than the legend.

I actually, and unintentionally, viewed this film on Elvis’ birthday. It neither added to nor detracted from the experience, but it was an amusing coincidence. I can think of worse ways to honor his memory.

I realize from this conversation it isn’t clear why you might want to see this story, but you should. It is well acted and directed. It nails the era wonderfully. It has some great moments. It is, in its weird and wonderful way, rather touching and heart-warming. That’s worth an evening’s investment in my book.

Elvis & Nixon

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