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Review: “Priscilla” is a stunning biography, offering intense revelations into a keystone American couple [MUSE]

Review: Priscilla is a stunning biography, offering intense revelations into a keystone American couple [MUSE]

Released in October 2023, “Priscilla” has astounded audiences and even secured a Golden Globes nomination for Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama. The biography revolves around Priscilla Presley, wife of Elvis Presley, and her journey navigating marriage to a cultural icon while discovering her own identity. Largely based on Priscilla’s book Elvis and Me, the movie takes creative liberties, deviating from the source material.

The film portrays Priscilla’s journey from the age of 14, when she first encountered Elvis, until her divorce at 28. At 17, Priscilla courageously leaves her parents to be with the man she loves, facing the challenges of high school while romantically involved with a popular musician ten years her senior. The storyline delves into Priscilla’s struggles with Elvis’s infidelities, controlling behavior, and drug abuse, all while striving to provide a decent life for their child. Audiences gain firsthand insights into the complexities of the Presley marriage and the intricate dynamics of the adored Elvis. This film offers a fresh perspective on the iconic couple, fostering empathy and understanding for Priscilla and the tribulations she endured. The conclusion sees Priscilla divorcing Elvis and embarking on a journey to forge her own path in life.

I love this movie. Everything about this movie, from its costume design to its acting, every detail is impeccably curated. Its ability to provide a new narrative about a powerful man and give Priscilla the power back regarding her marriage, only makes me like this movie more. This movie also stands in stark contrast to the portrayal of Elvis in the “Elvis” movie released in 2022 and other Elvis-related movies produced. It shows the ugly side of a popular figure and illustrates how love, power, and fame are all key elements of celebrity marriages that everyday people are unbeknownst to. 

My favorite part of this movie is undoubtedly the acting. Cailee Spaeny showcases the childlike and easily manipulated personality of young Priscilla spectacularly. She also encompasses Priscilla’s need for Elvis’s approval and depression from the marriage brilliantly. She even manages to perfectly demonstrate Priscilla gaining back control over her life and speaking for herself. Spaeny’s acting was superb and truly made me feel like I was watching a young girl transform into a strong woman through her overcoming her marriage with a perverted, abusive, addicted, yet charming and popular man. Cailee Spaeny deserves all the laurels for this performance as she embodied Priscilla perfectly and connected with viewers in an unparalleled way. 

Another standout performance in this movie comes from Jacob Elordi, who plays Elvis Pressley. I’ve seen Elordi in other projects such as Euphoria and Saltburn, but his acting in this movie is genuinely unmatched. I would go as far as to say that Elordi as Elvis was a better portrayal than Austin Butler as Elvis. The main reason behind this claim is because of how Elordi was able to convey Elvis’s unbeatable charm while simultaneously showing off his abusive, self-centered, and insecure tendencies. Elordi has the swag to play Elvis but the way he communicates the ugly, twisted side of Elvis so eloquently is what truly impressed me. When Elordi was portraying 24-year-old Elvis preying on 14-year-old Priscilla, I genuinely felt like I was watching grooming occurring. Elordi’s acting made me utterly uncomfortable, which I’ve never felt before. I’ve watched numerous psychological thrillers and movies involving grooming, but somehow Elordi’s style of acting made me get goosebumps and almost feel the mutilation Priscilla was unknowingly going through. The ability to elicit such an emotional response from me is why I have to crown Elordi as the superior Elvis and as an outstanding performer in Priscilla.  

Furthermore, the use of fashion in this movie is particularly powerful and like nothing I have seen before. In the beginning, Priscilla has brunette hair in a ponytail and wears long skirts, showcasing her young, school-girl mentality. As she gets closer to Elvis, she starts to wear more makeup in order to please him. Once she moves in with him, she completely changes her style to whatever he wants. She dyes her hair dark black, wears her hair down with a big poof in the back, starts wearing more blue and discards all printed and brown clothes, because Elvis hates prints and brown. But as the distance between Elvis and her grows, she starts to wear more colors, lets her hair become brunette again, and wears flowy material as opposed to the tighter clothes Elvis liked her in. At the end of their marriage, Priscilla wears a metallic brown, printed dress as Elvis forces himself upon her. 

Priscilla’s clothes showcase an evident evolution in her character. She starts off having the style of an innocent little girl, following the expected trends of German high schoolers. But as she gets closer to Elvis, his style and personality completely absorbs her sense of self. She loses her personhood and simply becomes an extension of him. But when she regains her independence, she creates an individual style that suits her best. The storytelling shown through fashion in this movie acts as a significant motif and ties into the aesthetics and themes of this movie beautifully. 

In essence, “Priscilla” is a must-watch movie showcasing the dark side of an often idolized couple. This movie teaches the importance of loving yourself before loving others and emphasizes how seemingly perfect couples/people have drama behind closed doors. Its immersive storylines, acting, and fashion have made it one of 2023’s best films for me. 

On this blog, members of the Carmel High School chapter of the Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists (and the occasional guest writer) produce curations of all facets of popular culture, from TV shows to music to novels to technology. We hope our readers always leave with something new to muse over. Click here to read more from MUSE.

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