Friday new releases: 2 February 2024
Priscilla, Argylle and Riceboy Sleeps are in cinemas, Society of the Snow and The Greatest Night in Pop are on Netflix
The most notable thing I took away from Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of Priscilla Presley’s 1985 autobiography, “Elvis & Me”, is how much feeling is involved. Not emotional feeling – although there is a bit of that – but tactile feeling, material feeling.
It opens with a close-up of Priscilla’s bare feet walking on pink shag pile but from then on you get the sense that as an audience member you can feel it all – mohair sweaters, green baize blackjack tables, taffeta.
Coppola has always had a sense of the importance of stuff – it says more about the owner or wearer than we give it credit for – but it seems to reach new heights here.
Priscilla was fourteen-years-old when she fell into Elvis Presley’s orbit while he (and her family) were stationed in Germany in the Army in 1959. They were both children, except that Elvis was already 24.
Priscilla, the film, follows a linear trajectory from those first meetings, through flirtation and relationship to marriage, motherhood and then divorce.
It could have ended up a traditional biopic – and leans that way at times – except that Coppola’s eye for illuminating detail and Cailee Spaeny’s exquisitely calibrated performance keep bringing us back to a young woman (like Marie Antoinette in Coppola’s 2006 film) who has become trapped by a life of luxury and frustrated by unknowable rules.
Paradoxically, by foregrounding Priscilla, the film becomes more insightful about Elvis than any recent film. Improbably tall Australian actor Jacob Elordi gets the voice right and we’re mostly spared any attempts at recreating him in performance. We just the get the mercurial, petulant, needy and insecure version of him.
Like Elvis’ life, the final third of the film is uneven and unhappy and by the time we get to 1971 it’s clear that Coppola shares Priscilla’s view that its better for all of us if we just leave Elvis behind.
Argylle has been out less than 24 hours in Aotearoa and already the stink from the rest of the world has reached here. I didn’t hate it as much as I have hated previous Matthew Vaughn films (i.e. a lot) and it’s a big expensive mess, to be sure, but there’s a sliver of something original in Jason Fuch’s script.
For a few years now, the phrase “An Apple Original” indicated that there was going to be a level of taste involved in a production but Argylle is now a counter-factual, a brand damaging exercise for all involved (except Mr. Vaughan).
Bryce Dallas Howard is Elly Conway, an anxiety-riddled cat-lady who is also the author of a series of phenomenally successful spy novels featuring the titular secret agent Argylle (played in the recreations by Henry Cavill, whose charm the film overrates considerably).
The books are extremely popular in the espionage community, it turns out, because they have a habit of eerily predicting real world events. Competing organisations now want her to write the next chapter so they can steal a march on their enemies.
I won’t go into more detail because the plot twists are the reason this movie exists, suffice to say that despite being overblown, overstuffed and over-confident, there are two sequences near the end that are actually quite novel – my wife calls one the “Hello Kitty Boss Brawl” – but then it adds another twist and another long set-piece by which time we are all ready to go home.