An Honest Review on Priscilla: Fame, Love, and Loneliness Through Sofia Coppola’s Lens

An Honest Review on Priscilla: Fame, Love, and Loneliness Through Sofia Coppola’s Lens


Written and directed by Sofia Coppola and adapted from producer Priscilla Presley’s memoir, Priscilla takes us on an emotionally and intimately charged journey of a girl in love with the most famous man in the world

“Are you an Elvis fan? Do you want to go to one of his parties?” There’s often a poignant solitude and isolation felt by women straddling the paradox of having it all yet feeling a void, as seen through the lens of Sofia Coppola. The film director reveals this complex emotional landscape, where abundance coexists with an unmistakable sense of emptiness—such is the case of a 14-year-old girl from a military base in West Germany.

In her adaptation of Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir, Elvis and Me, Coppola redirects the spotlight from the towering figure of entertainment and music to the woman who stood beside him. In Coppola’s hands, she carries us through the life of a girl, wholly immersed in the whims and wishes woven by a man renowned and revered as one of the most sought-after figures of his time, one she considers the love of her life.

Like all juicy stories, it started at a party. Priscilla Presley née Beaulieu—played tenderly by Cailee Spaeny—first meets her future husband, then 24 and she 14, in West Germany. Her petite frame in pastel green dress down to her calf, the circle skirt flouncy as can be, a ribbon attached to her neckline, completing the coquette aesthetic. Her adolescence captures the heart of the giant. Jacob Elordi, soft-spoken yet largely present, plays the King of Rock, and, like his height, his presence towers everything in place—except not this film. This one is all Priscilla. 

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Elordi masterfully unveils an intriguing and capricious enigma beneath the alluring charm that cannot be questioned when he captures the hearts of many. His Elvis embodies a darker essence, unlike any portrayal that came before. Even in contrast to Austin Butler’s flamboyant and embellished rendition, bedecked in suits, styled hair, and nuanced accents in 2022’s Elvis, Elordi’s interpretation stands unparalleled—a depiction that explores layers of complexity with a distinctive touch. 

Like 2006’s Marie Antoinette, Coppola loves an anachronistic choice. In this instance, she adeptly executes framing the story of a dark fairy tale set in an era marked by the dawn of the civil rights movement, juxtaposed with a modern-day audience perspective that jerks us out of the historical period. Coppola, the cast, and the audience share an unspoken understanding of the narrative’s implications. Every frame, interaction, and dialogue leaves no room for interpretation; it’s all laid bare, unfolding before our eyes. The unsettling words “groomer” and “pedophile” linger, subtly slipping between our tongues and teeth, a stark reminder of the uncomfortable truths that appear through every frame.

Like all unsettling relationships, the power dynamics are obvious, displayed with everyone to see. Does anyone dare to confront it? Not a chance. Instead, whispers circulate when the focal figure departs, or thoughts are tightly held within the confines of their minds. The question looms, whether to vocalize concerns after someone departs or to let them linger perpetually in the recesses of one’s thoughts. 

Yet, it’s not solely confined to the relationship between Elvis and Priscilla; it extends to the intricate web connecting the rock star with everyone in his orbit. The unspoken hierarchies and unaddressed tensions create a palpable undercurrent in the air, leaving observers to grapple with the complexities of power dynamics in their silence.

Elvis’ entourage trails behind him like loyal companions, reminiscent of the puppy he presents to the 17-year-old Priscilla when extending an invitation for her to relocate to Graceland, his grand mansion. Each interaction hovers in anticipation, a collective yearning to bask in the fleeting moments when his hands make contact or he accords agreement to their words. It’s not an overt desperation; rather, it’s a quest for validation, where every individual seeks affirmation through the unique aura that surrounds the legendary figure.

And so what girl or teenager, vulnerable and open and sponge-like, can say no to the dream of having someone so in control, so influential, so powerful? But she is still mighty aware, even telling Elvis, now her keeper, to stay away from her graduation rites as she does not want to take away the spotlight from other graduates. She stands her ground when rumors of affairs with co-stars like Nancy Sinatra and Ann-Margret come to light. She chooses her battles when he kicks her out constantly, even when he knocks her up after they get married. 

Spaeny delivers a performance that’s not only riveting, but also deeply moving as the effervescent young woman whose spirit gradually succumbs to the weight of circumstance. From the exuberance of adolescence to embodying Elvis’s envisioned archetype of the perfect companion, her portrayal of Priscilla resonates with a profound and heartfelt sincerity. The transformation of her character is nothing short of heart-wrenching, laying bare the portrayal of a stolen youth with an unflinching honesty of a relationship that has no place or right to exist. The actress, undoubtedly, commands attention, leaving an enduring impact with her nuanced and emotionally charged depiction of Priscilla’s story.

Coppola constructs these narratives with an artful touch, framing them together intricately and with a delicate precision, steering clear of sensationalism or excess. Much like a discreet observer, she approaches the storytelling emphatically and with a keen sensitivity, capturing moments with intimacy. The fact that Priscilla Presley herself serves as a producer adds a layer of authenticity to the storytelling—it is, after all, her life

The film is distributed by CreaZion Studios and will be out nationwide January 31, 2024

Photos and Featured Image: PRISCILLA

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