“Elvis has left the building…Thank you very much” What if Elvis Presley entered the building but one of the most famous buildings in the world, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, The White House? In Liza Johnson‘s Elvis And Nixon in 1970, the king of rock’n’Roll put on his best jumpsuit, turned up at the back door and requested a meeting with the president of United States Of America. But why?
It may be hard to believe this movie is based on an actual event that’s absurd, such an extraordinary story and one steeped in mystery. Immortalised around the most requested image from the American National Archives of Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley. Whilst the whole story might not be in the public domain, it’s one that had to be told.
Elvis And Nixon take us back t0 21st December 1970 when the white house at 630am gets an unexpected guest, Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon). The King of Rock ‘n’Roll wants to meet the ‘leader of the free world’ and requests a meeting with tricky dicky himself Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey).With him, Elvis came armed with a handwritten letter he wrote on the airplane to D.C, a letter with an ‘urgent request’. Elvis wants to be sworn in as an ‘undercover Federal Agent At-Large’.
The movie may be a fairly short one compared to the average mainstream movies, running time of 86 minutes long, which is just right for this. We already know a lot about the movie’s protagonists, enough to easily recognise their part in history and in images without having to dive much into the background.
Michael Shannon plays Elvis Presley and he looks nothing remotely close to the king. The purpose of the movie isn’t to have look-a-likes, but an attempt of a once great man whose alienated from the outside. Possibly feeling threatened by four young whippersnappers from Liverpool stealing his thunder.
Shannon doesn’t try to impersonate Elvis though you can clearly see he’s having fun with those stereotypical quips we’ve come to associate with the king. There is one funny scene when he’s sitting in an airport lounge waiting for his flight to D.C and he’s approached by an ‘Elvis Impersonator’ who doesn’t realise he’s mimicking the ‘real thing’. What we get is a well-mannered southern boy, gun loving, hippy hating, Beatles loathing Karate chopping man who is now the ‘establishment’. His towering presence is powerful, mannerisms hypnotic, jumpsuits blinding, all you need to be that Federal Agent At-Large.
Elvis And Nixon, the main focus is on Elvis with Nixon more the secondary character. Kevin Spacey plays Tricky Dicky Richard Nixon who comes across as a profane parody of his character. An angry man, grumpy, crouching man who doesn’t like anyone touch his Dr.Pepper or M&’M’s most of all interrupt his afternoon nap. We see his persona in full action from his first scene, out of touch but thanks to his aides Bud Krogh (Colin Hanks) and Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters) who convince him the meeting would be best for his PR.
The first part of the movie is all focused on the build-up to the meeting, the negotiations and come across with a more serious tone. From the first minute of the movie, we see Elvis watching chaos unravel in front of him on the TV Screens, firing at the screens with a gun. Later on, Elvis recounts his iconic status “When I Walk into a room, everyone remembers their first kiss watching one of my movies, but never see me“. This sums up his stamp on popular culture thanks to his success that comes with fame and now he wants to give back to the country he loves.
The real fun starts when he arrives at the back door of the White house to personally deliver the letter determined not to take no for an answer. Even if that means his own aide Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) missing his own marriage proposal. Elvis And Nixon may not deliver endless laugh out loud laughs but when things take a farcical twist into absurdity you will be laughing.
Drama, comedy | USA, 2016 | 15 | Entertainment One | 31st October 2016 (UK) | Dir.Liza Johnson | Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Colin Hanks, Alex Pettyfer, Evan Peters, Johnny Knoxville | Buy: [DVD]