ELVIS & NIXON
FILM REVIEW - ELVIS & NIXON
Running Length: 86 minutes
Directed by: Liza Johnson
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Michael Shannon, Alex Pettyfer, Colin Hanks
Written by: Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal, Cary Elwes
Cinematography: Terry Stacey
Release Date: 24th June 2016
A whimsical curiosity.
This odd little curio is a semi-fictional account of a bizarre afternoon in 1970 when Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) inveigled his way into the Oval Office for a meeting with Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey).
News reports of civil rights marches, Vietnam War protests and counter culture dissent causes The King to shoot out his TV and go AWOL from Graceland. Travelling incognito (in a flared velvet jumpsuit, cape and massive gold wrestling belt) under the alias of “John Burrows,” Presley shows up at the front door of the White House and rings the bell. His intention is to ask Nixon to confer him with the title of federal agent “at large.” But no such role exists and nobody is exactly sure of what the suffix “at large” entails.
Presley wants to wage a war against un-American forces, and approaches the President with the intention of becoming an undercover agent. Nixon’s PA (Colin Hanks – looking like he just stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting) is too polite to mention the absurdity of the most recognisable face on the planet wanting to go undercover,
and fobs him off with a plastic badge from the gift shop. But Elvis is a man used to getting what he wants when he wants it. A meeting is eventually arranged, and Nixon’s initial outrage gives way to bemusement and eventual infatuation.
Four seasons of House of Cards has given Spacey ample presidential experience. It would be easy to paint Presley and Nixon in the broad strokes of caricature and play this for laughs. And while Elvis & Nixon is often funny, the comedy is tinged with pathos. Fragile and arrogant at once, Shannon’s Elvis is softly spoken, determined, and obviously in the midst of a mental breakdown. The actor manages to nail the tragedy and natural charisma of The King without lapsing into parody.
Just as the point of Presley’s visit is unclear to everyone except Presley himself, the purpose of Liza Johnson’s movie is hard to decipher. Amusing and occasionally affecting, Elvis & Nixon is a whimsical curiosity.