Elvis & Nixon (2016) review

What is there to say about Elvis & Nixon, the title pretty much sums up the movie. This tells the real life story of the meeting between the King of Rock'n'Roll and the President of the United States in 1970. After becoming distressed with America's increasingly drug-obsessed, anti-establishment, counterculture, Elvis decides he will travel to the White House and ask to become a "Federal Agent at large". His proposed solution to the problems blighting the country? He will go undercover, infiltrating rock bands, revolutionary groups and the Black Panthers and try to bust people he sees as communist sympathisers. He turns up at the White House gates and asks to be admitted, but unfortunately is rebuffed. Handing in his letter to the president, he waits. Nixon's advisors, hoping to improve the president's public image with large numbers of voters, are keen to set up a meeting. Nixon however is less than enthusiastic, seeing little or no point in meeting with Elvis Presley. 


Needless to say, Elvis eventually gets his meeting and the two men find they get on surprisingly well.

This is a short film and really has a very simple story to tell. What carries it are the two towering central performances, Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon. Shannon portrays Elvis as a tender, naive individual, perhaps a little delusional, but with a genuine desire to do good. He also has some heartfelt moments when he describes his loneliness as such an icon, obviously finding it hard to reconcile his huge public persona with his private life and friendships. Spacey's Nixon is almost a caricature, and it's clear that both actors were having fun with their performances. He captures the presidents mannerisms, his insecurities about his appearance, and his complete lack of understanding concerning popular culture. In a sense both of these men are cocooned in their own worlds, their behaviour conditioned by their life experiences and current status. It has an upbeat soundtrack, capturing the period and helping establish this as a comedy. The writing is sharp, getting across great amounts of detail in snappy dialogue and to-the-point scenes. A fun watch about two fascinating figures, the film really does not attempt to be any more than that and succeeds on its own terms.


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