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Published June 21, 2024

Uncomfortably beautiful: “Priscilla” movie review

I never knew that I could be so captivated and uncomfortable at the same time while watching a movie.
Image by Ava Weinreis
The film was released on Nov. 3.

“Priscilla,” directed by Sofia Coppola, was widely released in theaters on Nov. 3 .

“Priscilla” is a biopic looking at the relationship between Elvis and Priscilla Presley from the perspective of Priscilla. The perspective is interesting because the couple met when Priscilla Presley was only fourteen years old while Elvis Presley was stationed in Germany at the age of 24.

Sofia Coppola’s arthouse filmmaking allows for an intimate look into the couple’s complicated relationship. “Priscilla” does a proper job of capturing the audience with its beautiful cinematography, while also making the audience feel uncomfortable with the relationship they are witnessing.

“Priscilla” is not a movie for everyone. The movie is two hours long and the plot is slow at some parts and rushed at others. For some, the ending of “Priscilla” might feel dull and incomplete, but for me I think that is the point of the ending. Priscilla isn’t dead. She is still living her life, her perspective is not done yet.

I went into the theater knowing Elvis met Priscilla when she was a freshman in high school. I was prepared to be weirded out by their relationship, but I was not prepared to be uncomfortable with the age gap for the entire movie.

Coppola puts in montages of Elvis and Priscilla together, making them seem as if they are a normal couple. However, many of those montages are followed by a scene that reminds the audience that Priscilla is ten years younger.

The discomfort continued throughout the movie because as I saw Elvis age, Priscilla continued to look so young. There was not a point in the movie where it seemed as if they both were equal. Additionally, Elvis continued to refer to Priscilla as “Little One” even after she was no longer a teenager. It is supposed to be a sweet nickname, but considering the context of their age gap, it just made me feel weird.

As “Priscilla” was released a bit over a year after Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” starring Austin Butler, I could not resist comparing and contrasting the two films.

Besides the plot being different, Coppola does not make Elvis a larger-than-life character like Luhrmann does in his film. This is understandable because the movie is from Priscilla’s point of view and Elvis was the man she was in love with versus the perspective of Elvis’s manager who viewed him as a show monkey.

When I saw “Elvis” in theaters, I struggled to keep my eyes on the screen and would look away because there was so much happening all the time. While watching “Priscilla,” I never wanted to take my eyes off of the screen.

The softer cinematography in “Priscilla” is easier on the eyes than “Elvis.” I also found Graceland a bit more peaceful in this version and not as in your face. The color scheme is not as bold. It is filled with a lot of pastels and muted variations of blue and red. I also noticed in “Priscilla” there were more fade ins and outs used as scene transitions and a lot less quick camera movements than there were in Luhrmann’s “Elvis.”

Priscilla Presley, as a character, stands out from the beginning of the movie with the help of Coppola’s filmmaking decisions. In most scenes that Priscilla is in, she is wearing colors that make her stand out or the lightning in the scene seems to be directly on her. I saw this as Coppola’s way of making sure the audience did not forget who this film was about.

“Priscilla” received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival in September. I believe that it was well deserved. The film seems to capture Priscilla Presley’s love for Elvis while also showing the aspects of their relationship that were uncomfortable.

Coppola created a detailed film and I feel as if what I noticed is only scratching the surface of all the details. I left the theater wanting to talk to Coppola about her filmmaking choices to see what parts I noticed and analyzed were intentional and which were not. “Priscilla” may be an unexpected favorite of this year.

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  • GEL
    Jan 3, 2024 at 1:11 pm

    I found this movie boring and cringeworthy. I’ve never felt that relationship was anything but cringeworthy. Truly, today, he would be considered a “Groomer” or worse. A 24 year old man attracted to a young woman who is barely a teenager herself, only a freshman in high school…and people accepted it. Not only was she young. He also introduced her to drugs and alcohol, and most definitely had at the very least an inappropriate physical relationship with her…while also alienating her from her family. Hmmm….what do we call that? Well, I’m sure you can figure that out.

    I was never a big fan of his, nor her either…but this movie feels like Priscilla cashing-in at this point. I wasn’t impressed.