Jonathan Rhys Meyers of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III and BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM delivers a definitive performance in the acclaimed mini series event that depicts Elvis from 50s teen outcast to worldwide sensation, through his grim decline to spectacular 68 comeback. Experience the triumphs and tragedies, excesses and affairs, madness and music of The King Of Rock & Roll, featuring a stellar cast that includes Emmy® and Golden Globe® winner Camryn Manheim as his beloved mother Gladys, Oscar® nominee Randy Quaid as the notorious Colonel Parker, Robert Patrick as Vernon Presley, and Rose McGowan as Ann-Margret.
Elvis: The Miniseries
was produced with the cooperation of the Presley empire, and it shows: this 173-minute opus uses Elvis's original recordings and real Graceland locations. The official imprimatur might also account for the movie's emphasis on the good years: what we get here is the early rise to fame, the Army interlude, then a run through the increasingly dispiriting movie career. It climaxes with the 1968 comeback TV special, leaving Elvis's addled final decade undetailed (but foreshadowed, to be sure). The story of the Mama-lovin' Tupelo boy who ascended to the throne of rock has been told so many times it has taken on the contours of Greek myth: we know everything that's coming, but we gain reassurance from hearing the familiar anecdotes anyway (and then Elvis and the boys started fooling around with "That's Alright, Mama" and Sam Phillips rolled the tape, etc.). In this telling of the myth, the villain is an easy find: it's Colonel Tom Parker, the big-talking and short-sighted manager who reaped big profits from Presley's movies but kept the King out of projects such as West Side Story
. Randy Quaid gives the movie's best performance as the cunning Colonel.
An intelligent script helps the movie over the episodic nature of biopics, and Camryn Manheim and Robert Patrick are nice casting as Elvis's parents. But the whole thing hinges on the central E-casting, and here Jonathan Rhys Meyers proves a mixed bag. He appears a little intimidated by the role, and never quite owns it, even if he's very good as the dewy, more-or-less innocent Elvis. Having to lip-synch to the original recordings makes Rhys Meyers look outmatched at times: how's that big sound coming out of that spindly guy? Kurt Russell's performance in John Carpenter's classic TV-movie remains the gold standard. This take on Elvis makes him out to be a pawn in a crazy game, rather than a self-directed musician with a very distinct vision of his own. --Robert Horton