After the trippy and pretty apt title has come to an end, we see the back of a sofa, a couch, an L shaped retro lazy boy, a fucking throne, and on it we see a man with his right elbow on the head of the seating. All we can see is the elbow, the head, and one foot hanging to the left side. The television is on in a room that looks like a luxury suite of a seven-star hotel, in the ’70s that is, The dense wall-to-wall carpet is white and The King’s throne is pink. The room shouts exuberance but it is quiet. Except for the TV which keeps harping out one alarming story after another as we hear the clicks of a giant TV remote. Then that also goes away and we hear the soft voice of Elvis Presley himself. It is as if Michael Shannon (Complete Unknown) has been possessed by The King as the swagger in his walk defies logic when he walks to Hard To Handle and speaks in the mirror and practices a greeting for Nixon, the soft Elvis (Love Me Tender) voice soothes both, the viewer and all the President’s men, the President of the United States of America and a few dozen air hostesses among other intermittent shrieks of joy and implausibility, which Shannon handles and gyrates to (unknowingly, for you see, Shannon is considered to be an enjoyable left-field choice for a jaded, increasingly alienated Presley, who looks like he’s losing a handle on things, however, that thought is soon gone as he causes a stir wherever he treads, as the gun-toting rock-and-roll star) with immense grace and the coolness of a cat that Elvis was.
Shannon has drowned himself in the lore of Elvis and it shows, even in the ludicrous and highly whimsical kung fu scene; even if Shannon comes across as an extremely strange and an unlikely Elvis in the film stills.
Director Liza Johnson proves that a lady director can tackle the energy of two top male thespians portraying two of the most powerful men in history, powerful and most recognizable figures of the 20th Century.
Speaking of the president, Kevin Spacey is a fine impersonator and an even greater performer (it is quite unfortunate that his career ended way too soon, however, Spacey has not stopped fighting back using YouTube as his fortress). He pulls off the whole damn deal like a smooth operator and also looks good while doing it. Spacey is playing the President before Nixon became famous for his downfall a couple of years ahead. He plays Nixon with a certain enigmatic stubbornness and gruff.
Again, speaking of looks; there is a scene where Elvis compliments The President on his looks much to Nixon’s disgust that soon changes into a compliment well taken. Then again, when Nixon is showing The King around the Oval Office Elvis stops at a glass bell jar, which covers a moon-rock placed on a stand covered in maroon velvet. “That was given to me by Mr. Buzz Aldrin. You can pick it if you like”, says Nixon, to which Elvis replies: “No, that’s cool man, Buzz sent me one too.” In that calm as fuck voice.
And Nixon thought he could be cooler than the King.
The film is one heck of a fun ride. Shannon and Spacey are a hoot in an entertaining if slighted effort, The photograph taken at the Office (shown above) is one of the most sought after pictures from the National Archives, even though introduced late, the interaction between the two heavies is lovely and great fun to watch and before that we have Shannon as The King, snapping his finger and making his hand look like a gun and totally looking like a Rock Star. All of it reminded me of the doomed Val Kilmer and his amorous performance in The Doors, 1991.
Elvis & Nixon is available to rent or stream Amazon Prime