ELVIS & NIXON (director: Liza Johnson; screenwriters: Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal, Cary Elwes; cinematographer: Terry Stacey; editors: Michael Taylor, Sabine Hoffman; music: Ed Shearmur; cast: Michael Shannon (Elvis), Kevin Spacey (Nixon), Alex Pettyfer (Jerry), Johnny Knoxville (Sonny), Colin Hanks (Krogh), Evan Peters (Chapin), Sky Ferreira (Charlotte), Tracy Letts (John Finlator), Tate Donovan (Haldeman), Ashley Benson (Margaret), Dylan Penn (Diane), Ritchie Montgomery (Grady), Danny McCarthy (Agent Duncan), Ian Hoch (Donald); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Holly Wiersma, Cassian Elwes, Cary Elwes; Amazon Studios; 2016)
“I appreciate how entertaining it was, its riveting performances by the two stars and how goofy was the absurdist parody.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The most requested photo in the National Archives is the 1970 image of Elvis Presley shaking hands with Richard Nixon in the Oval Office.
Director Liza Johnson(“Good Girls Revolt”/”Return”/”Hateship Loveship”) chooses comedy above all else in her picture of the bizarre meeting in the buttoned-down Nixon WH between the uptight Prez (Kevin Spacey) and the flamboyant gold-belt wearing iconic rock singer Elvis (Michael Shannon). It’s comically written by Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal and Cary Elwes, who provide sizzling dialogue. The conversation they had is unknown, since this was before the Prez started taping every official conversation. What’s known is that the singer was angry at the hippies for spreading the drug culture and requested the meeting to ask the Prez if he could become an undercover agent to catch the dealers. Nixon, at first reluctant to meet with the King, accepts the meeting request when he realizes how popular Elvis is and it could be good for his public image to have a photo-op with him.
The result is an hilarious comic fictionalization of the 40 minute visit in 1970 at the Oval Office. Though each performer does not look like the character they portray, they both inhabit their character’s mindset and mannerisms.
The film plays out as a beefed-up SNL skit. It probably would work better as a stage play. But even if it adds nothing of historical value, I appreciate how entertaining it was, its riveting performances by the two stars and how goofy was the absurdist parody.
REVIEWED ON 5/2/2016 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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