Priscilla: The Other Half of Elvis

(L-R) Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny in Priscilla. Photo credit: Sabrina Lantos.

A movie about Priscilla Presley, Priscilla, arrives in theaters just over a year and change after an Elvis Presley biopic was released.

After last year’s film, it’s inevitable that someone is going to splice together an edit out of both movies. It’s pretty common for a year to have two different disaster thrillers about the same disaster. This instance is different in that it’s not a disaster thriller. Nor is this film coming out the same year. The fact that it is barely over a year since the release of Elvis does speak to how much of the story is still fresh. Not to mention the fact that their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, died days after Austin Butler won an award for playing the King of Rock and Roll. In any event, writer/director Sofia Coppola bases her new film on Elvis and Me by telling Priscilla Presley’s (Cailee Spaeny) side of the story of her relationship with Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi).

Coppola’s script follows Priscilla from 14-21. I’m going to assume that there are no dramatic licenses in adapting her story for the screen. While at a U.S. Army base diner in Germany, Priscilla Beaulieu, a guy invites to a party at Elvis’s place. The rest is history. What you might not expect is how Elvis appears in their private moments. I mean, this guy was already a superstar by the time they met. The fact that she happens to be from back home in the U.S. is key to their bonding. They become friends and get to know each other. And yet, one still cannot ignore the age difference. Elvis flies Priscilla to Graceland, Los Angeles, and even Las Vegas. Of course, none of the trips would be possible without Captain Beaulieu (Ari Cohen) and Ann Beaulieu (Dagmara Dominczyk) also offering their consent.

Coppola’s film does not shy away from the highs and lows of their marriage. She also doesn’t shy away from Elvis’s temper either. Elvis could be abusive at one moment and apologizing and wanting Priscilla back in the next. It’s rather interesting to see how Coppola approaches the relationship in contrast with Baz Lurhmann. What’s surprising to me is that we never see Col. Tom Parker in the film. Coppola does recreate the intro to Elvis: The ’68 Comeback Special.

Cailee Spaeny delivers a stronger performance as Priscilla than what we saw in the 2022 film. In all likelihood, she will probably earn an Oscar nomination for her acting. As for Jacob Elordi, he turns in a solid performance, too. Aside from bits here and there, Elordi’s performance is a stark contrast from Austin Butler in that Coppola isn’t depending on him to sing and play music much.

Production designer Tamara Deverell reimagines Graceland on Toronto soundstages. I’m not sure about the mansion’s exterior. While they strive for authenticity as possible, this is probably where they take the most dramatic liberties. For one, we know that Elvis made renovations after their divorce became finalized. Photos of the second floor during the 1960s do not exist. Speaking of designs, I would expect that Stacey Battat’s costume designs will be in the running during awards season.

From the outside looking in, one could see Priscilla as living the fairy tale life but the truth is a lot more complicated than that. What we see is just how suffocating their 1967-1973 marriage can be especially in the later years. Did their ten-year age gap make a difference? I honestly don’t know. What we do know is that Priscilla decides to be her own person and walk away.

CAST: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Dagmara Dominczyk

A24 released Priscilla in theaters on October 27, 2023. Grade: 3.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.