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Tell-all "Priscilla" shows how King Elvis was like Count Dracula


Starring Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Ari Cohen, Dagmara Dominczyk, Tim Post, Olivia Barrett and Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll. Written by Sofia Coppola, Sandra Harmon and Priscilla Presley. Directed by Sofia Coppola. Opens Friday in Toronto theatres, with some Thursday previews. 113 minutes. STC

⭐️⭐️⭐️ (out of 4)

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

Baz Luhrmann’s dazzling “Elvis” movie last year showed much about the rock ’n’ roll king’s life and career, but it had a serious blind spot regarding Priscilla Presley.

The enraptured girl who later became Elvis’s barely adult wife (and ultimately his ex-wife) was played well by Olivia DeJonge, but she had scant screen time to make much of an impression.

Enter writer/director Sofia Coppola. With her narrowly defined biopic “Priscilla,” filmed in and around Toronto, she aims to correct Luhrmann’s oversight. In so doing, she dashes any romantic illusions one might have regarding one of the most famous celebrity couples of the 20th century.

Coppola casts a critical eye on the pairing of the naive Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) with the intense Elvis (Jacob Elordi), a match that began as predatory (she was 14, he was 24) and became controlling, abusive and, finally, untenable.

The film isn’t the least bit laudatory — Elvis has never looked so threatening or mean — but it is truthful, at least from the perspective of Priscilla, who is credited as executive producer and co-writer.

Coppola remains faithful to the source book, “Elvis and Me,” Priscilla’s confessional 1985 bestseller, in which she wrote of being “blinded by love” after meeting Elvis at a house party in West Germany in 1959.

The film shows how creepy that first encounter must have been. Priscilla, the stepdaughter of U.S. Air Force officer Paul Beaulieu (Ari Cohen) is dressed in the sweater-and-skirt attire of a Catholic schoolgirl, sipping a Coke in an airbase lounge, when she’s approached by one of Elvis’s many fixers.

He invites her to a party in the home rented by Private Elvis Presley, who is serving his compulsory military service but accorded many privileges. Priscilla, a fan of the rising rocker’s music, is excited by the thought of meeting him. Heated parental negotiations ensue and soon Priscilla is being leered at by Elvis, who declares, “You’re just a baby!”

This makes him all the more interested in her. He commences a charm offensive to woo Priscilla and to win over her skeptical parents, a process that takes years and involves many separations as he tours and makes films.

Elvis finally persuades Priscilla’s parents to first let her visit and then live with him at his Graceland estate in Memphis, with the proviso that she continues to attend high school.

She doesn’t realize that she’s entered a prison, one in which King Elvis acts more like Count Dracula, keeping her in the shadows and draining her of life energy.


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