Wednesday, April 27, 2016

[Review] Elvis & Nixon

"Who the f*** set this up?"

You've probably seen or at least heard of the famously bizarre (and 100% real) photo of Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon shaking hands in the oval office. Directed by Liza Johnson, the new film Elvis & Nixon embellishes the story of the head-scratching meeting to greatly comedic proportions.

It's the early '70s, and the sidearm-obsessed Elvis (played by Michael Shannon) is hellbent on becoming an undercover agent, in order help America by cracking down on The Drugs. He comes up with the crazy idea to secretly meet with current POTUS Nixon (played by Kevin Spacey) so he can ask to be granted with an official Federal Agent badge. After a letter, and a lot of running around and compromises, the cantankerous Nixon begrudgingly agrees to a 5-minute meeting.

Some people were had at "Michael Shannon playing Elvis." I was had at "Michael Shannon." The guy is excellent in everything he's in, and this is one of his best performances to date. For one thing, he gets a King's amount of screen time Shannon playfully and skillfully ingrains a trait of oblivious determination within the iconic, past-prime singer. Spacey is formidable here as well. We've seen a lot of different Nixons on the big screen, but this is one of the more wry versions, and it actually feels like Spacey disappears into the character. Colin Hanks and Johnny Knoxville also lend some pitch-perfect supporting performances. Alt-Pop star Sky Ferreira even makes an appearance (there's not much to it, but it made me excited for her upcoming album).

It's less of a political biopic, and more of an off-the-wall piece of historical fill-in-the-blank. Even though this is based on a true event, we're not supposed to buy into all the details and "facts". We're supposed to buy into how confounding and hilarious the situation is portrayed. When the two larger-than-life figures finally do meet, it's truly something to behold. Shannon and Spacey expertly bounce their best off of each other. The interaction is scrumptiously awkward, quietly monumental, and entertaining as all get-out. There isn't really anything to spoil about how it all transpires, but I'll refrain from going into any more detail anyway. It's just something you have to see for yourself.


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