Elvis & Nixon

by Dale Reynolds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday July 25, 2016

Elvis & Nixon

Some true stories are just goofy enough to warrant our theatrical attention, and Sony Pictures' "Elvis & Nixon" is just such a story.

Elvis Presley, King of the pop world at the time, was a collector of police and military badges and desperately wanted one from not just the Federal Government, but from the President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon.

How Elvis got it is the small, amusing, tactful story-telling. The screenplay by Joey and Hanala Sagal, and Cary Elwes is low-key, funny and takes time to spell out the major difficulties of having the deeply insecure Leader of the Free World (!) meet with the rich and screwed-up rock-n-roller, so the soon-to-be passé and dead singer could get a Federal badge and the soon-enough-to-be-deposed President could get a photo op out of the meet, along with an autographed picture for his daughter, Julie (and one also for Bud Krogh, Nixon's assistant, one more government worker to be jailed as a co-conspirator connected to the Watergate burglary).

It all takes place around December 21st, 1970, in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The two men met, entertained each other, left, and created some history for the National Archives. It's not something you could easily make up and be believed, but it did happen and this fine, if slight, film is now there for we who knew nothing of this... er... momentous meeting, now know something.

Director Lisa Johnson shepherds a fine cast of actors, prominently Michael Shannon (who can do no wrong as an actor), as Elvis, and the always astonishing Kevin Spacey as Nixon. Both actors caught the essence of each of their characters, giving us honesty and not satire in their portrayals. Shannon is given in the script the inner man who was lost in the shine of the external and who shyly shares him with us. Spacey, too, has found some of the sensitivity which lurked behind Nixon's steely exterior, and the meet is a combination of tenderness and bravado on both actor's parts.

What works best in this 86-minute film is the filmmakers' attempt to humanize what are to most of us stock figures of either idolization or demonization. Interestingly, nothing is made of Elvis' desire to bring away America's youth from the dangers of drugs - even as he personally contributed to his own destruction from an excess of booze and drugs almost seven years after this meet.

Another favorite moment is when an Elvis impersonator (played by co-screenwriter Segal) sizes up what he assumes is another Elvis impersonator at the airport and grudgingly gives him an okay for his look.

Some fine actors support the two leads, specifically the handsome close friend of Presley, Jerry (British actor Alex Pettyfer); Johnny Knoxville as another associate, Sonny; Colin Hanks as Krogh; Evan Peters as Dwight Chapin, one more soon-to-be-jailed pervertor of the U.S. Constitution; and a slew of other actors known or unknown to us, mostly pretty.

This charming film deserves our attention and maybe our admiration. It is fun and slightly daffy, but it happened.

"Elvis & Nixon"





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