Elvis Presley famously met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu in 1959 when he was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany. She was the daughter of an Army officer and he was immediately smitten. Eww, right?
Well, yes, but as Sophia Coppola’s film “Priscilla” — which stars 25-year-old Cailee Spaeny — makes clear, both the King and his intended were utter naïfs at the time. Elvis (Australian actor Jacob Elordi, HBO’s “Euphoria”) has a poster of “On The Waterfront” in his bedroom, and ambitions to study at the Actor’s Studio to emulate Marlon Brando and James Dean. He knows all of Humphrey Bogart’s lines in “Beat the Devil.” All and all he’s more complicated, insecure and endearing than say, the streamlined, stylized creature (magnificently) played by Austin Butler in Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 “Elvis,” a film to which this one invites comparisons in more ways than its title.
But. He’s. Still. A. Creep. And. A. Groomer.
Coppola follows the orthodox reading of the relationship — while Elvis spirits Priscilla off to Graceland to live with him, she remains a virgin until after they marry — after she turns 18. Then he immediately knocks her up and keeps her as a virtual prisoner in the gilded, surreal and notional luxury that is Graceland. She sticks with him for a while, as he goes through phases charming, alarming and ultimately self-destructive, finally divorcing him when she’s 33 years old and ready for a second act.
Spaeny is one of the early favorites for a Best Actress nomination, and Elordi is being buzzed about as well and Coppola who co-wrote as well as directed. In Variety, Owen Gleiberman writes: “Spaeny makes Priscilla a figure of strength, but the force of her performance is how she enacts Priscilla’s slow-motion melancholy, connecting the audience right up to what it’s like to be in love with someone who turns out to be a gaslighting freak. When she finally liberates herself, it’s like she’s waking up from a dream. Early on, Priscilla tells Elvis her favorite song of his is ‘Heartbreak Hotel.’ ‘Priscilla’ is a piercingly honest drama about how she wound up living there.” “Priscilla” opens theatrically this week.
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We first became aware of Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn as the bad — well, the badder — brother in Netflix’s “Bloodline” series (which premiered in 2015), though we should have recognized him from his role as violent criminal Andrew “Pope” Cody in 2010’s “Animal Kingdom,” or from roles in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) and Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” (also 2012). That we didn’t speaks to his subtlety and quiet (as opposed to Peter Seller-esque) chameleon skills. Few actors can simultaneously play scary, detestable, but somehow sympathetic as well as Mendelsohn.
He turns up as Jacob Holbrook, the infamous “marsh king” of Neil Burger’s “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” a revenge thriller about a young woman (Daisy Ridley) who must confront the man who abducted her mother two years before she was born and held her captive during her childhood after he murders two guards and escapes from prison. Based on Karen Dionne’s 2017 novel of the same title, it arrives with little fanfare and (as I’m typing this, no reviews) but while Burger’s career has never quite achieved the early promise demonstrated by his 2006 debut “The Illusionist,” Mendelsohn’s participation is enough to give us a bit of hope for this psycho thriller. Plus the always welcome Garrett Hedlund is in the cast. The film opens in Arkansas today.
It is not quite professional to allow press release copy to carry the weight of a synopsis, but sometimes there’s no need to re-invent the wheel. So here’s what the good folks at Build-A-Bear Entertainment, a division of Build-A-Bear Workshop, have to say about their G-rated animated film “Glisten and the Merry Mission,” which is also opening theatrically this week: “‘Glisten and the Merry Mission’ follows a young elfling, Marzipan, and her mother Cinnameg, the newly minted manager of Santa’s troubled North Pole workshop. Marzipan must believe in the magic of the season to help save Christmas, which leads to the adventure of a lifetime and the search to rediscover the enchanted snow deer, Glisten. The pursuit of their merry mission is aided by Santa and a colorful cadre of reindeer and elves, including a big bear on the ‘naughty list’ named Grizz, and the wise elf Sage Evergreen.” All. Righty. Then.
The film utilizes the vocal talents of Julia Michaels, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss, Freddie Prinze Jr., Billy Ray Cyrus, Michael Rapaport, Dionne Warwick, Tim Johnson Jr. and Chevy Chase.
On other screens this week: “Helen’s Dead” (not rated, 1 hour, 24 minutes, On Demand) A mystery thriller in which Addie (Dylan Gelula), following a nasty breakup with her boyfriend, storms into a dinner party to confront her cousin Helen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) regarding allegations of cheating, where she discovers that Helen has been murdered. And everybody’s a suspect. With Emile Hirsch, Tyrese Gibson, Oliver Cooper, Annabelle Dexter-Jones; directed by K. Asher Levin.
“John Wick: Chapter 4” (R, 2 hours, 49 minutes, On Demand) John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back, this time in an action-packed and rigorously choreographed adventure in which he figures out a way to defeat the High Table and set himself free. But first he must take on a new enemy with powerful alliances from across the world. With Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick; directed by Chad Stahelski.
“Black Noise” (R, 1 hour, 26 minutes, On Demand) For those who haven’t yet recovered from Halloween scares comes this violent thriller in which an elite team of security contractors, deployed to rescue an important guy from a pricey island estate, arrive to find the affluent property abandoned except for masked gunmen; instead there’s the presence of a strange siren emitting a creepy droning sound that assaults bodies as well as minds. With Alex Pettyfer, Jackson Rathbone, Sadie Newman; co-written and directed by Philippe Martinez.
“Share?” (not rated, 1 hour, 27 minutes, On Demand) Here’s a creepy sci-fi mystery thriller about a nameless guy (Melvin Gregg), struggling to survive in a society connected by a primitive computer network where the ability to entertain is the only currency, who discovers that his unseen audience rewards his moments of humiliation and pain. So he crafts a self-destructive comedic persona that allows him to not survive but thrive. With Alice Braga, Bradley Whitford; directed by Ira Rosensweig.
“Anonymous Sister” (not rated, 1 hour, 34 minutes, On Demand) Emmy Award-winning director Jamie Boyle’s insightful, intimate and unrelenting documentary explores the brutally difficult effects of opioid addiction on unprepared families like hers.