By: Nick Askam
Elvis & Nixon is based on the untold story of the time Elvis met Nixon. Their meeting is shrouded in mystery, and the film is recreated using the recordings that Nixon kept during his time in the White House. The film is then based on what Liza Johnson (the director) thought fit in with the rest of the film. Michael Shannon stars as Elvis and Kevin Spacey stars as Nixon.
This is film is better than most people say it is. The characters that are developed are fantastic and you can understand how insane Elvis was and how Nixon had to be composed the entire time. It’s honestly one of those folk lore stories that comes alive on screen and that’s why I like it so much. I don’t think I would say it’s an achievement in film-making by any measure, but it’s certainly entertaining. These two were seriously the most unlikely to meet in any circumstance and the sheer amount of effort that it took to get them in the same room tomorrow was amazing in its own way.
Michael Shannon is picture-perfect as Elvis. He becomes him in all his charm and his mannerisms. I found him to be great in both Washington and Nashville. The energy that Shannon brings to the character makes him feel so alive. He never actually sings or dances, but just by the way that he carries himself you can tell, the King has arrived. I found Shannon’s performance particularly endearing considering that Elvis is a figure that’s larger than life and it must be a huge challenge to fill those shoes. I feel Shannon’s performance went after the person that Elvis tried to be off the stage. I thought it worked to perfection.
Kevin Spacey on the other hand was not right for this film. It’s not his fault, though. Spacey has the unfortunate pleasure of playing the President in House of Cards and that character came more alive than Nixon in this film. Without knowing what House of Cards is, the character would still feel off just because of how much influence is in the Nixon character. It’s a shame because Spacey plays an amazing President. Nixon is also a character in real life that’s shrouded in mystery mainly due to the fact that cameras and social media were not as readily available. History almost contorts him into this imaginary villain that terrorized America, and it’s apparent that’s what Spacey feel to be drawing upon. Had he taken Shannon’s route of playing more like what we didn’t see in the spotlight, his performance would’ve worked better.
The plot in this film feels disconnected from the characters. It didn’t matter what Elvis or Nixon were doing on the screen, their characters were so interesting that the plot became forgettable. These two legends transformed the Presidency and pop culture, so the amount of prejudice brought into the film contorts the plot into something unrememberable. It’s a shame because it is such an interesting story, but it’s just doesn’t hold up compared to the deep character study.
Overall, this film is nice when you need something to relax and have in the background. The characters leap off the screen as they do in real life. Unfortunately, this takes away from the plot and leaves the viewer with an average movie.