Elvis movie: Tom Hanks’ sacrifice for trashed role

It’s official: Tom Hanks has made a career-first misstep. Here’s why we should give him credit for the sacrifice.

Watching a Baz Luhrmann film is like getting in the car of a morning, switching on the ignition and having the stereo blast out the speakers at full volume.

The only difference is, in the car, you don’t expect it. With Baz, you go into the theatre already bracing yourself for the onslaught. But even then, you’re still stunned by the shock to the senses.

The boundary-pushing Aussie director goes big. From Romeo and Juliet to Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby – if it can’t be described as a spectacle, then Baz isn’t interested.

The same goes for his latest bedazzled offering: the Elvis biopic.

The reviews have been mixed. Many critics have trashed the flick – labelling it messy and unfocused. And that’s probably because the screenplay had about as many co-writers as a Beyonce song.

“It’s unrestrained, exuberant, demanding, aggressive, generous, luxurious, infuriating, explosive and exhausting – and sometimes all at the same time,” news.com.au film critic Wenlei Ma wrote.

“There are aspects of Elvis that is cinematic mastery and there are other parts that is bilge. It’s a mess of contradictions as well as being … just a mess.”

The finished product is a lot. If you go see the almost-three hour movie at the cinema, you’ll probably be finding specks of glitter on your skin for weeks after.

“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off,” Coco Chanel once famously said.

If the French fashion designer were still alive, Baz would not be friends with her. He’d probably protest her quest for simplicity by glitter-bombing her house.

When it comes to Baz’s movies, he’s more of a Versace guy. More is more is more. Before leaving the house, look in the mirror and then put on a top hat. If he could wear seven pairs of shoes at the same time, he would.

Just once, it’d be great to see Baz work within the boundaries of a basic 90-minute JLo rom-com. No bells and whistles. No glitter budget. No elaborate dance sequences.

Even then, he’d try to push the envelope.

“Baz! JLo’s playing a down-on-her-luck New York publicist looking for love in Manhattan – there’s no reason to have her flying on a trapeze!”

Movies about pop culture icons are always at risk of being cringe-worthy caricatures. Elvis Presley – with his pout and his costumes – is seen as more of a character than a person. Someone to dress up as for Halloween.

But the grounded performance from swoony US actor Austin Butler as the King of Rock and Roll saves the biopic from becoming a gaudy pageant with no substance. Maybe that’s why the biggest blindside of the movie stings so much.

Ladies and gentlemen, it comes with great remorse to report that Tom Hanks stars in a career-worst role.

Tom – globally known as The Nicest Guy In Hollywood – is the stinker in Elvis. He plays Colonel Tom Parker – a manipulative manager who takes the young singer under his wing and exploits him like an evil puppet master.

The role of shady antagonist quickly morphs into Mojo Jojo – the villain from The Powerpuff Girls.

Tom wears a fat suit and a rubber face. That’s an instant red flag. Roles involving fat suits are always dangerous. It could get you an Oscar. Or you could just wind up looking like an extra in the Nutty Professor.

It doesn’t help that Tom also talks in a bizarrely unidentifiable accent the whole time.

“[It’s] arguably the least appealing performance of his career,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote.

The real kick to the guts is this dud role made Tom catch Covid.

Production for Elvis had just kicked off on the Gold Coast in early 2020 when a mystery pandemic started to threaten the world. By April, Tom and wife Rita Wilson had tested positive for Covid, becoming the first globally-recognised people to catch the virus we still knew little about.

Proving his status as The Nicest Guy In Hollywood, he then offered himself up for scientific study to help develop a vaccine.

“A lot of the questions [are] what do we do now? Is there something we can do? And, in fact, we just found out that we do carry the antibodies,” he told NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! podcast soon after recovery.

“We have not only been approached, we have said, ‘Do you want our blood? Can we give plasma?’”

Instead of sledging his performance, we need to respect the sacrifice Tom Hanks made by accepting this lemon of a role.

What we saw was The Butterfly Effect at play.

If Tom Hanks catches Covid on the Gold Coast while playing Mojo Jojo in Baz Luhrmann’s OTT Elvis biopic, it can change the outcome of a global pandemic.

Twitter, Facebook: @hellojamesweir

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