Based on Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir Elvis And Me, Sofia Coppola’s new film titled Priscilla radiates authenticity and showcases an intimate glimpse into Priscilla and Elvis’s fascinating relationship and subsequent marriage. Released on November 3rd, 2023, Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla has garnered both negative and positive responses from critics and moviegoers alike, including the supposed disapproval from Priscilla’s own daughter Lisa Marie who tragically passed earlier this year. Unlike Baz Luhrmann’s flashy and stylish Elvis featuring Austin Butler last summer, Coppola’s film takes on a much more melancholy and realistic approach. Although the film isn’t necessarily based on Elvis himself, it does explore Elvis in a different light although in a limited scope. Priscilla herself serves as an executive producer of the film, and the storyline is seen through her first-hand recollections which gives the film a much more genuine feel than Luhrman’s Elvis.
The film initially begins in 1959, when Priscilla is 14 years of age and living in Germany with her mom and stepfather who is stationed there as an Air Force military officer. As teenage Priscilla is hanging around a diner, she is approached by a fellow officer who asks and invites her to meet Elvis Presley. Excited, Priscilla informs her parents, and much to their hesitation she is eventually allowed to meet the musician. Actress Cailee Spaeny portrays Priscilla and absolutely captures her essence at all age levels. At 25 years old, Actress Spaeny had the task of capturing believability as a 14-year-old, which she in fact pulls off quite well. After meeting Elvis, she’s obviously struck by his charm, talent, and spontaneity leaving her smitten with the musician. Actor Jacob Elordi portrays Elvis, and at 6’5 completely towers over the 5’1 Spaeny. The King was in fact around 6’0 and Priscilla at around 5’4, but visually the film’s height difference works otherwise.
As Elvis, Elordi oozes confidence and swag as he appears to portray the icon much more casually and effortlessly than Austin Butler’s Elvis. This is most likely due to the big differences in both scripts, as Butler’s portrayal of Elvis called for the actor to sing and perform while Elordi’s did not, so it’s almost hard to compare the two. Despite this, it’s difficult not to due to the huge contrast between the two. Elordi resembles Elvis much more and appears casually cool in his portrayal. He looks amazingly handsome in his 1960s-period outfits and most notably the few scenes where he is donning his army uniform. Austin Butler’s Elvis looks more like a caricature trying desperately hard to look like The King but failing in all aspects, although his musical performances are top-tier and Oscar-worthy.
The great thing about this film is the deeper take on Priscilla and Elvis’s relationship and life together at Graceland (Memphis, TN). We witness Elvis’s dominance over Priscilla as she is completely taken by him, not to mention the 10-year age gap. Elvis is 24 and Priscilla 14 when they meet. The film explores Priscilla’s desire to desperately be his one true love, only to be met by lies, infidelity, and controlling ways leading to a tulumutous relationship. Also showcased is Elvis’s addiction to pills whereas Priscilla then takes part in the pill-popping antics. In retrospect, Elvis was a rare and unique talent, but was also a deeply flawed and complicated man which is shown to an extent throughout the film. Also explored is the birth of Lisa Marie, and the personality challenges between the two, as Priscilla is very quaint, feminine, fashionable, naive and polite compared to Elvis’s fast-paced Rock n’ Roll lifestyle, macho mannerisms, bad temper, and adolescent and daring behavior with his crew known as the (Memphis Mafia). Although we see Elvis’s faults through Coppola’s film, we also witness his charm, charisma, insecurities, and struggles as a human being. Visually, the film is stunning and does a great job of capturing the essence from the late 1950s through the 1970s. The 1960s wardrobe is most notably spot on, and both Elordi and Spaeny look gorgeously stunning in their fashionable pieces.
Spaeny starts as a timid 14-year-old Priscilla who matures into a young 20-something-year-old woman vying to please Elvis at any cost, causing a loss of sense within herself. As they grow together, Elvis chooses her wardrobe and openly flirts with other women in her presence. It’s these moments where I was hoping to see Priscilla fight back, which she does but only modestly in the film. The script could have presented their quarrels in a stronger fashion, and even to the extent of showcasing Elvis’s and Ann-Margaret’s affair more so. The film also doesn’t utilize Elvis’s music but does the job nonetheless. What the film does though is utilize music of the era, in choosing songs from Frankie Avalon, The Ronettes, and Brenda Lee giving it a sense of realism to the time, unlike Baz Luhrman’s Elvis where he openly utilized modern music with the likes of Doja Cat in scenes (extremely unrealistic) taking away from the era.
As a fan of Elvis, I absolutely loved the film…flaws and all. The vintage aesthetic and cinematography are exquisite, along with the chemistry between Elordi and Spaeny. The film will make you feel as though you’re falling in love for the first time which left me wanting more. In the end we see Priscilla leave Elvis, but unfortunately don’t get to see her life after the divorce and real perception into her thoughts and feelings. For more insight into the film, a read of her actual memoir is highly recommended as it offers more details and intimate moments. It should be noted that Cailee Spaeny won “Best Actress” for her portrayal at the Venice Film Festival this past summer and has been nominated for a Golden Globe.
Priscilla is currently showing in theaters across the U.S.
Check out your local listings to view the film. Priscilla’s 1985 memoir, Elvis and Me, is available to purchase via Amazon.
Cover Photo Courtesy: Priscilla | A24 (a24films.com)