Priscilla Presley’s Emotional Reaction to Sofia Coppola’s New Elvis Film
Exploring the Intimacy and Manipulation in “Priscilla”
By | The New York Times
September 5, 2023
In the realm of biographical films, it is not often we witness such contrasting approaches to storytelling as evident in the Elvis Presley films released in back-to-back years. Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” (2022) and Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” offer two distinct perspectives on the iconic musician’s life and relationships. While Luhrmann’s maximalist spectacle paints a glamorous and sanitized portrait of Elvis, Coppola’s “Priscilla” delves into the intimate and often manipulative dynamics of his marriage to Priscilla Presley.
Exploring the Intimate
Coppola, known for her films like “Lost in Translation” (2003) and “Marie Antoinette” (2006), has a penchant for exploring the inner world of her female protagonists. In “Priscilla,” the Director masterfully captures the isolation and longing for connection that Priscilla Presley feels while living in the gilded cage of her relationship with Elvis.
Adapted from the memoir “Elvis and Me,” the film begins when Elvis, stationed in Germany during his military service, meets Priscilla, the 14-year-old daughter of a military officer. Although their age difference is significant, Elvis pursues her relentlessly, eventually whisking her away to Graceland.
The film showcases the power dynamics within their relationship, with Elvis exerting control over Priscilla’s appearance and behavior. Despite possessing everything she thought she wanted, Priscilla still finds herself lacking fulfillment. Coppola effectively captures the dual nature of Elvis’s character – alluring yet cruel and manipulative, as he insists on keeping their relationship hidden from the public eye.
A Sensitive Portrayal
The role of Priscilla Presley is sensitively brought to life by the up-and-coming actress Cailee Spaeny, who delivers a nuanced performance. Jacob Elordi, known for his portrayal in TV series “Euphoria,” takes on the challenge of playing Elvis. Coppola cleverly avoids grand musical numbers, instead focusing on Priscilla’s perspective by filming Elvis from the back when he performs on stage.
It is worth noting that the film lacks significant musical scenes primarily due to Presley’s estate not supporting or authorizing the use of his songbook. This can be attributed to the differing approach taken by Luhrmann’s estate-approved film, which portrayed Elvis as an innocent pawn manipulated by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. In stark contrast, “Priscilla” reveals the manipulative side of Elvis himself, resulting in a warts-and-all portrayal.
Presley’s Reaction and Reflection
When asked about her thoughts on the film, Priscilla Presley expressed her difficulty in watching a film about her life and love. However, she commended Sofia Coppola for her meticulous attention to detail and the emotional journey captured on screen.
Priscilla specifically highlighted the film’s ending, which depicts the crumbling of their marriage and Priscilla’s subsequent transformation and independence. “It was the lifestyle that was so difficult for me, and I think any woman can relate to that,” Presley shared at the Venice Film Festival.
Editorial and Advice
Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” offers a thought-provoking exploration of the complex dynamics within the relationship between Elvis and Priscilla Presley. The film serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding the power dynamics that exist in relationships, especially when there is a significant age difference and imbalances of fame and influence.
It is essential that we continue to engage in conversations surrounding consent, manipulation, and the balance of power in relationships. Films like “Priscilla” encourage reflection and empathy towards the experiences of individuals who find themselves caught up in intense and imbalanced relationships.
At its core, “Priscilla” is a cautionary tale, urging individuals to be aware of their own agency and to navigate relationships with care and consideration. The film serves as a reminder that no matter the allure and glamour, one should never sacrifice their sense of self for the sake of another.
As viewers, it is our responsibility to critically engage with the content we consume and to promote healthy representations of relationships that challenge societal norms and foster empathy. By doing so, we can contribute to a more informed and compassionate society.
is the current affairs commentator for The New York Times.
<< photo by Mason B. >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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