In one of the less likely films to be made, Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon meet and discuss communism, income tax, and surveillance strategies. Michael Shannon is Elvis Presley, Kevin Spacey is Richard Nixon, and the King of Rock and Roll is keen to meet up with the President as he’s worried about hippies and drugs and TV, and likes collecting badges.
The definitive portrayal of Richard Nixon to me and most of my generation would likely be found in Frost/Nixon, by Frank Langella, coming under pressure from the surprising humanity of David Frost’s entertaining interviews. Well, (in what isn’t a prequel), he clashes with the entertainment world in 1970, at the heights of his powers, as Elvis Presley, at the heights of his fame, wants to meet him. He all but knocks on the door after working with his friend and improvised PR manager, Jerry Schilling, portrayed by Alex Pettyfer.
Whilst these are not finest performances of all time from Spacey and Shannon, these are a lot of fun. A new version of Richard Nixon from the TV president of our times takes surprinsgly no getting used to; he establishes himself with a unique and almost pantomimic take quickly. Michael Shannon’s Elvis is highly physical and commands the screen. Alex Pettyfer also delivers a show-stealing performance as the only really normal person in absurdity, and brings everyone else down to Earth.
In a pacey and unusual 86 minutes, we witness a really close interplay of highly engaging being the versions of themselves from behind their public masks. The conceit that we don’t know what really happened is somewhat ignored, and whilst what plays out is clearly tightly scripted, it is extraordinarily energetic and surprising. Each scene is so engaging, and no aspect outstays its welcome. There’s almost not enough, but the timing of each moment you remember is impeccable. Nothing else has made me laugh quite so much this year.
Much like Frost-Nixon, there’s surprising commentary on the way that politics and entertainment is being mixed up more and more, and raises wonderful questions about authority. Each fighting to establish their own authority is a particularly fun part of the… rivalry to watch. Is it a rivalry? Is it a conflict? Is it a friendship? Its an unusual match made in heaven by the end.
Easily into my top films of the year so far. This was so much fun and so easy to love. Somehow, this implausible nonsense between two impossibly unconnected icons is more engaging than a lot on offer at the moment.