Film Review “Elvis & Nixon”

elvis-nixon-posterStarring: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey and Colin Hanks
Directed by: Liza Johnson
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 26 mins
Bleecker Street Films

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

December 21, 1970. As he goes over his schedule in the White House, President Richard Nixon (Spacey) is informed that he has a meeting with one Elvis Presley. He eyes his aide and calmly asks, “Who the f*** set this up?”

It’s the most requested photo from the National Archives. Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley shaking hands in the Oval Office. But what is the story behind the photo? The new film, “Elvis and Nixon,” may or not be the whole truth but it is an entertaining tale that sheds a light on the meeting between two of the most famous men of their time.

While watching television in his home one night, Elvis Presley (Shannon) is horrified by the various news stories he sees. Black Panthers. Drugs. Draft cards being burned. It’s more than the King can take and he hops a plane to L.A. to visit an old friend, Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer). It’s while on the plane that Presley conceives a plan. He will go to Washington D.C. and ask the President to make him a “Federal-agent-at-large,” with the idea of using his fame to infiltrate the youth culture of the day. In 1970 Elvis was in the midst of a huge comeback started two years earlier. Still amazingly popular, Presley and Schilling run across a couple of Elvis impersonators in the airport, who mistake Presley as being one of them. They congratulate him for making an effort to look like the King, even though they tell him, “Elvis would never wear that,” which is pretty funny when you remember the outfits he used to wear. Jump suits and capes anyone?

The film moves quickly, buoyed by the performances of its stars. I’ve always enjoyed Michael Shannon as an actor, but this is really the first time he hasn’t been over-the-top crazy that I can remember. Wearing giant sideburns and gold-framed sunglasses, Shannon makes Elvis a vulnerable character who truly wants to do the right thing. A great mimic, Spacey is spot on as our 37th President, vulnerable to the country he feels doesn’t admire him as much as they do handsome people, like John Kennedy. Both men get down into their respective characters, giving the film a somewhat documentary feel, which gives the film an air of familiarity.

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