July 13, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: ELVIS & NIXON

Starring Kevin Spacey, Michael Shannon, Alex Pettyfer, Colin Hanks, Evan Peters, Tate Donovan, Johnny Knoxville. Directed by Liza Johnson. (2016, 86 min).

Elvis & Nixon is an account of the 1970 meeting between The King and the president, culminating in the famous photo they took together. At the time, Elvis was enjoying a career resurgence and Nixon’s presidency was still untarnished.

Elvis (Michael Shannon), disillusioned by both his public persona and the belief that today’s youth have lost their way due to the influence of drugs, arrives unannounced at the White House to request a meeting with President Nixon (Kevin Spacey). Nixon initially refuses (it would interrupt his scheduled naptime!), but is persuaded by aides that such a meeting will boost his public image with young people. Elvis has a more ambitious agenda: he wants to be deputized as an undercover agent for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Elvis & Nixon is seldom laugh-out-loud funny, but it is pretty affable, amusing and, at 86 minutes, doesn’t beat its premise to death. The film also resists the temptation to turn its two main characters into buffoons for the sake of cheap laughs. In fact, both come across as fairly likable and charming (even Nixon, in curmudgeonly way). Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey wisely avoid simple impersonations (any physical resemblance to these cultural icons is superficial at best), instead giving their characters personalities rather than personas.

"Be honest, Mr. Presley...is 'Suspicious Minds' about me?"

It would nice to think this is how it all went down. For all we know, maybe it did. At any rate, Elvis & Nixon is an entertaining depiction of one of the more infamous culture clashes of the 1970s. Those who were around at the time might even detect a slight bittersweet tone underlying the proceedings, since the careers of both men would take downward spirals shortly after.

“Crazy but True” (making-of featurette)
Audio Commentary (by director Liza Johnson & executive producer Jerry Schilling)


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