Yep. Actually a true, and very funny, story.
Upon seeing the trailer you may have felt a ‘Woah, that’s weirdly brilliant!’ feeling. That feeling lasts the entirety of watching the film itself. The meeting of two of America’s then most famous/infamous men did actually occur in 1970. In many ways the men were actually quite simillar, seemingly rooted by their conservative values and working class upbringing. Yes, Elvis was the hip-swinging, gyrating King of Rock’n’Roll and Nixon was, well, Richard Nixon. but they did have some shared interests. Or, at least, Elvis thought they did and desperately pursued a meeting with the then President of the United States. The film follows Elvis on his quest and the subsequent meeting, to much audience amusement.
1970, Graceland. Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) is watching television on his three television screens. He isn’t happy at what he sees. He sees lots of drugs, lots of protest and lots of unnecessary deaths. He decides that he can do something about it, using his celebrity for good and decides to become an undercover agent in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. He just needs to meet with President Nixon (Kevin Spacey) first to get it all organised. Luckily he’s got friends Jerry (Alex Pettyfer) and Sonny (Johnny Knoxville) to do that. Nixon’s underlings Krogh (Colin Hanks) and Chapin (Evan Peters) are more than keen, but it looks like their boss will need a lot of persuading.
The film uses the seemingly unlikeliness of the situation/s to advantage. Quite often (arguably too often) the laughs arise from the ‘No way! I don’t believe it.’ school of comedy. Yet that isn’t such a bad thing when you look at just how good the source material and it’s adaptation to screen is. The gags are good, well written and paced and told with great delivery.
I am a huge fan of Michael Shannon (Midnight Special was an underrated gem, click here of review) and he soars in this comedic-yet-not-really-comedic role. At times I had to remind myself I wasn’t actually watching Elvis Presley, not necessarily due to his look but due to his personality, exuding the aura and charisma of one of music’s true greats.
What helps is the film’s moments where he interacts with us mere mortals. The expressions of those he comes across, the mystification and disbelief, do not get old or less funny. His foe-turned-friend Nixon, as played by Kevin Spacey, also creates a truly memorable and hilarious persona, behaving in a way that certainly seems Nixon-esque. Shannon does steal the show though with the best lines and the fact he can truly pull of huge medallions and a massive gold belt.
The film also utilizes its supporting cast to great effect. I loved both Peters and Hanks as the acting-older-than-their-age young suits, their scenes with Spacey were standout. I also rather enjoyed an unrecognisable Knoxville in his brief but memorable role as Elvis’s close friend. Pettyfer, as Elvis’s BFF, was the only disappointment. He should have been a character played with warmth and wit. Instead he was a bit of a charisma vacuum.
All in all, Elvis & Nixon is fun to watch based on a true story movie that is more than a little bit amusing. Worth a watch.