Movie Review: Elvis & Nixon
“Iconic rock-n-roll legend, Elvis Presley, meets the President of the United States, Richard Nixon” is a headline sure to grab the attention of most people. Directed by Liza Johnson, Elvis & Nixon is the story of how Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) met President Nixon (Kevin Spacey) on one momentous occasion on December 21, 1970. The film is based on a photograph in which Elvis meets Nixon in the Oval Office of the White House and is the gathering of two American icons whose influence greatly surpasses their own lives.
Possibly an attempt to satisfy fans and playing on the historic moment itself, Johnson brings to life two legends as a sort of novel tribute to the iconic legends of rock ’n’ roll and the political world whilst providing them with a backstory that attempts to humanise the men behind the fame. In Elvis & Nixon the tale behind Elvis’ meeting with Nixon is driven by a novel storyline which serves as both motivation for characters within the story and something so farfetched I found it hard to believe and at times follow; Elvis wants President Nixon to allow him to become a undercover federal agent so he can help in the fight against harmful drug use and serve his patriotic American duty as a proud citizen of the United States. It’s an endearing prospect that is seeped in the idea that celebrities should be putting their fame to good use by doing good deeds, something that is essential in helping make them relatable to the average person.
Elvis & Nixon presents a sort of manufactured publicity that highlights the conflicting cultural perspectives of the two icons whose worlds wouldn’t usually merge. By juxtaposing the ridiculousness of Elvis’ outlandish request with Nixon’s serious nature as political leader, the film is a lighthearted look at a historical occasion and a novel attempt that unfortunately overshadows many of the film’s minor backstories along with Johnson’s intension, which is to get you to look beyond the picture and bask in the moment.
Elvis & Nixon is out now on DVD and Digital release via EOne.
Words by Addy Fong.