If there were any legitimate complaints regarding Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, it is that there simply was not enough of it. If audiences are looking for a whirlwind of romance, womanhood, and betrayal, Priscilla is undoubtedly the movie to watch.
Priscilla, which follows Priscilla and Elvis Presley’s 14-year romantic relationship, is the film adaptation of Priscilla Presley’s 1985 biography, Elvis and Me. Directed by renowned filmmaker Coppola, the film tells the story of how love consumes the young Priscilla, leaving her devastated after Elvis’ return to the United States after he fulfills his military obligations.
Despite criticism from Elvis fans and even the late Lisa Marie Presley, Priscilla beautifully unveils the truth of Priscilla’s experience living under Elvis’ control through masterful cinematography, stellar acting, and subliminal storytelling.
The story starts in West Germany in 1959 as 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) passes idle time in a diner that is littered with American soldiers and their families. Life is dreary for Priscilla, who has just moved from Austin, Texas to begin high school with the rest of the army brats.
Things seem bleak for the young Priscilla until a soldier takes it upon himself to invite her to a party thrown by none other than 24-year-old rising rock and roll sensation Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi). Her life is altered forever. Priscilla’s ensuing love for Elvis begins a tumultuous relationship filled with manipulation, infidelity, and loneliness, as Priscilla navigates her new life as Elvis becomes a shining star.
Following the success of Elvis, a biopic of Elvis’ life starring Austin Butler, Priscilla is a story of womanhood that challenges the victimized image of the king of rock and roll on screen in a way that has never been depicted before.
With a series of costume, wig, and makeup changes, Priscilla elegantly captures the stark contrast between Priscilla’s various facets. Slight alterations to Priscilla’s appearance mark new stages in the titular character’s life.
From the infatuated and bare-faced ingénue of the late ’50s to the dazed newlywed drowning in eyeliner and hairspray, Priscilla’s costumes and makeup help the audience understand the elegant woman emerging from the shackles of Elvis’ control.
In tandem with stellar costuming, so much of the film’s central messaging is found subtly in frames of quiet moments in Priscilla’s life as Elvis’ muse. Recurring sequences of Priscilla wondering who she is without Elvis compel the audience into a state of solitude and despair. This focus on the mundane, yet quintessential, intricacies of girlhood that characterizes the majority of Coppola’s projects fits perfectly into Priscilla’s narrative.
In contrast to past depictions of Elvis as a star fallen from grace, Priscilla humanizes Elvis in the eyes of the woman he loved. Without pulling the film’s focus away from Priscilla’s growth over her and Elvis’ relationship, Elordi depicts the star as an insecure yet conceited man-child, incapable of viewing Priscilla as more than a timid teenager he could mold to his liking.
Spaeny’s talented performance paired with Elordi’s nuanced portrayal of Priscilla’s reason for being invites the viewer into the devastatingly stunning lives of one of Hollywood’s most infamous couples.
Despite her age, Spaeny flawlessly encapsulates the journey of the impressionable Priscilla and the turmoil surrounding her first and greatest love from ages 14 to 28. Through erratic outbursts of frustration, longing stares, and periods of complete despondence, Spaeny wholly dedicates herself to the dramatization of every stage of Priscilla’s life.
Dependent on Priscilla for reassurance and adoration depicted through delicate touches in bed to crazed acts of violence, Elordi and Spaeny beguile the audience with an unrivaled chemistry from the moment of their meeting until the rolling of the credits to show the audience Priscilla’s real story.