In 2022, the world saw Austin Butler transform to play the King of Rock and Roll in Baz Luhrmann's loud and flashy Elvis, and just a little over a year later we got to see the story from the perspective of Priscilla Presley, Elvis' ex-wife. Priscilla is directed by the incredible Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation) and based on the book Elvis and Me written by "the woman who lived it," as the book cover displays. Like the book, Priscilla is very soft, subtle, and beautiful — despite its darkness.
From the perspective of Priscilla (played by Cailee Spaeny) herself, we learn how she and Elvis (played by Jacob Elordi) first met in Germany — Priscilla's dad was an officer in the U.S. Air Force and their family was stationed out there, as was Elvis who was serving in the military — and how their budding romance began when Priscilla was only 14 years old.
At first glance, one might think the film is a hit piece on Elvis, focusing on his inappropriate age gap with Priscilla, his bad temper, and his drug use, but really, it's so much more than that. Using Priscilla's book, which does not aim to paint a negative picture of Elvis as much as a truthful one, allowed Coppola to tell a story that's full of so much love as well as so much pain.
Priscilla deals with the pressures and toxicity of fame, not only for the person in the spotlight but for those around them. Elvis was an incredibly complicated person and Priscilla learned first-hand how much a difficult relationship can impact one's life, especially when the relationship starts at a young and impressionable age. And though some moments were impossibly hard for Priscilla to wrap her mind around — let alone deal with — she still has a special place for Elvis in her heart and doesn't regret their life together. The movie does a fantastic job respecting that love and avoids depicting Elvis as a villain. He was difficult to deal with, that's for sure, but Priscilla never viewed him as a bad guy.
Priscilla stands out from other biopics of recent years
What makes Priscilla stand out from other biopics is the span of time it covers. This does not follow Priscilla's whole life, nor Elvis'. It's not supposed to. It's a hyper-focused story that captures one moment in history — the relationship between Priscilla and Elvis. Effective biopics can be so difficult to make because writers frequently try to capture a person's life from start to finish in a two or three-hour runtime. It's simply not enough time to tap into the emotional depth, and nuance is often lost. At 113 minutes, Priscilla successfully depicts just one part of Priscilla and Elvis' lives.
Priscilla and Elvis began their relationship when Priscilla was 14 and Elvis was 24, and they continued to see each other on and off until Priscilla's parents allowed her to move to his mansion, named Graceland, when she was 17 years old. From there, they were an official item — even if the media didn't know it yet — and they married in 1967. Priscilla was 21 and Elvis was 32. Their romance was far from perfect, and there are many elements about it I certainly can't defend or justify, but what we see in the movie is a real and raw depiction of a love story. Not the best love story or even a desirable love story, but a love story. One that really happened.
In signature Coppola fashion, the acclaimed director tells a story of a young woman trapped in an unfamiliar world, with many ups and many downs. Her artistic choices, including the cinematography, dialogue, soundtrack, and costumes, make for a dream-like film that creeps toward a nightmare at times. No one could've told this story better than Coppola.
Buy Priscilla on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital
Love Priscilla as much as I do? Then you'll definitely want to purchase the home release. Lionsgate was generous enough to send me a review copy of the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital release, which looks great. I hadn't seen the movie since I first watched it in theaters in Nov. 2023, so I was itching for a rewatch. The movie will be released on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, just in time for Valentine's Day. You can pre-order it now by following these links:
Haven't seen the movie yet and aren't sure if you want to buy it yet? Well, Priscilla does have a streaming release date, which is very exciting. The movie heads to Max on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. That's 10 days after the home release, but if you can wait, that's also a great option to watch.
Though Priscilla was snubbed at the Academy Awards, Cailee Spaeny was nominated for her portrayal of Priscilla Presley at the Golden Globes and won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. The film was also nominated at the Venice Film Festival for the Golden Lion award, which Yorgos Lanthimos' Poor Things won.