Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

Watching Priscilla, Sofia Coppola’s movie about Priscilla Presley, it’s hard to believe all of it is true.

Cailee Spaeny stars as Priscilla Presley in the movie Priscilla.*

Yet given the movie is based on Priscilla’s 1985 memoir Elvis and Me and she’s listed as the movie’s executive producer then you have to think it is.  Which makes some events highlighted in the movie even more disturbing.

The movie follows the first 10 years of Priscilla’s relationship with Elvis.  It starts in 1959 with 14-year-old Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) sitting in a diner on the US Air Force base in West Germany doing her homework.  Her father has been transferred there and she’s homesick. Her life changes when she’s invited to a party at the home of the then 24-year-old Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi) who is undertaking national service in Germany.

Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) in a diner in West Germany. *

While initially her parents (Dagmara Dominczyk and Ari Cohen) are reluctant to let her go on this outing and subsequent dates they always relent.

Priscilla’s attraction to Elvis is obvious. What 14-year-old wouldn’t be in love with the ‘king of rock ‘n roll?  But what Elvis sees in someone so young is up for debate (although throughout the movie it’s made clear they never had sex until they were married when Priscilla turned 22 despite sharing the same bed). Priscilla suggests it’s his homesickness and his grieving for his mother.

On Elvis’ return to the United States the two continue to communicate and while Priscilla tries to continue with her studies in Germany, Elvis returns to his previous life, complete with seemingly numerous romances. Eventually Elvis persuades Priscilla’s parents to allow her to visit Graceland – on the promise she will be well chaperoned.

Elvis (Jacob Elordi) and Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) in Las Vegas.  Photo credit: Ken Woroner

That chaperoning leaves a lot to be desired as Elvis takes Priscilla for a wild few day in Las Vegas and feeds her all sorts of tablets (one of which sees her sleep for two days)!

After her visit Priscilla returns to Germany but again Elvis persuades her parents to allow her to return to Graceland permanently.  He promises she will again be chaperoned and will finish high school at a local Catholic school.

The movie then follows Priscilla’s relationship with Elvis, which is portrayed as a relationship of total control with plenty of pill popping. He tells her what to wear and how to look. Once her schooling is finished she has to stay at home while he goes off with his friends to make numerous movies and seemingly have lots of affairs with co-stars all of which Priscilla reads about in the press.

According to the movie Elvis chose all of Priscilla s clothes. *

She isn’t allowed to have friends over.  Her only companion is a puppy Elvis has given her, and even then she gets into trouble for playing with the dog too close to the Graceland gates.  Elvis’ father Vernon (Tim Post) controls the purse strings while Elvis is away and is as strict as any parent.  When Elvis is home it’s clear he is in control, often losing his temper if she questions his actions.

Eventually at the age of 24 and after the birth of their child Lisa Marie, Priscilla has had enough and tells Elvis she’s leaving the marriage. The lead-up to this decision isn’t covered in nearly as much detail as her early years with Elvis, which is a little frustrating, but this  may suggest her seeking independence was more of a gradual process.

Assisting with this belief is the work of Spaeny who during the movie transforms from a wide eyed 14-year-old to a mature and independent woman. It’s a brilliant performance and it’s no surprise to learn she won the best actress prize at the Venice Film Festival. Through her work you feel Priscilla’s loneliness, isolation, confusion and love for Elvis.

Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny. *

Elordi as Elvis is just as impressive. It’s an ‘unusual’ Elvis role as Elordi isn’t called on to perform at all. There are no Elvis songs played as, despite Priscilla’s involvement, the Elvis estate didn’t participate in the film. It’s also reported the movie caused a rift between Priscilla and Lisa Marie before the latter’s death.

While not performing Elordi makes a convincing Elvis and his portrayal of the star’s behaviour and treatment of Priscilla, which ranges from anger and control to tenderness and need, is totally believable.

As a result, Priscilla, as the name suggests, is all about a woman who up until the age of 24 at least, had a very strange and seemingly unfulfilled life despite ‘living the dream’ of many teenagers of the time.

Priscilla opens in cinemas on January 18.

*Photo credit: Sabrina Lantos A/24.

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