(director/writer: Eugene Jarecki; screenwriter: Christopher St. John; cinematographer: Etienne Sauret, Tom Bergmann; editors: Simon Barker, Elia Gasull Balada, Alex Bingham, Laura Israel; music: Robert Miller, Antony Genn, Martin Slattery; cast: Eugene Jarecki, Alec Baldwin, M. Ward, James Carville, John Hiatt, Rosanne Cash, Chuck D, Emmylou Harris, Ethan Hawke, Van Jones, Ashton Kutcher, Greil Marcus, Mike Myers, Dan Rather, Luc Sante, David Simon, Immortal Technique, Linda Thompson, Leo “Bud” Welch; Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Christopher St. John, David Kuhn, Eugene Jarecki; OscilloscopeLaboratories; 2017)
“An ambitious but not a particularly jarring journey covering the troubled life of Elvis Presley some forty years after his death.
“Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz An ambitious but not a particularly jarring journey covering the troubled life of Elvis Presley some forty years after his death. The bloated King died OD-ing on the toilet in 1977 in Las Vegas. Director and writer Eugene Jarecki (“The House I Live In”/”The Trials of Henry Kissinger”), with co-writer Christopher St. John, relates his King to being the damaged soul of America and how the same Americans who idolized Elvis turned to Trump as their favorite rock star. It fulfills its premise by taking Presley’s 1963 Rolls-Royce Phantom V (strangely choosing this car over the Cadillac he preferred) and outfitting it with cameras. The film crew drive the Rolls from New York to Los Angeles, with starting points at his birthplace in Tupelo, Miss, and then onto his Graceland home in Memphis, Tenn, and onto New York, Hollywood, and, finishing, at Las Vegas. Supposedly from the fall of Elvis the indie director thinks we can learn much about what makes America shake. There are various celebrity passengers on the trek (including Ethan Hawke, Ashton Kutcher, John Hiatt, Emmylou Harris, and M. Ward) who make some music and rattle on with some trivial commentary. While the narrative relates how a genuine country boy stole the black man’s music and made a fortune bringing rock to the whites and then lost his bearings and became a troubled figure just like America became weak over this same period. During car stops mostly white-working class people are asked what they liked about Elvis and a bunch of talking heads (Including Justin Merrick, Van Jones, Mike Meyers, Greil Marcus and Public Enemy’s Chuck D) offer pro and con feelings about him. The documentary is passable as another biopic reflecting on the popularity of Elvis, but its bollix to think America and Elvis share the same fate. Let’s hope that’s not the fate that awaits America as stated in this superficial documentary that’s trying to make such an outlandish argument.
REVIEWED ON 1/1/2019 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/