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Priscilla, directed by Sofia Coppola with Priscilla Presley in the role of executive producer, is based on Presley’s memoir of the true story between herself and Elvis. The memoir describes their marriage and the times that led up to the couple’s divorce.
Slice-of-life or “mumblecore” movies are hard to pull off because of their simplicity. There is so much more complexity in showing an everyday life story than in an “action-packed two hours with terrible dialogue relying on action to survive” kind of movie. Priscilla isn’t so much an everyday kind of story; she married Elvis. But marrying Elvis is just another scene in this movie.
The film has been called “boring” or “nothing but montages” from Letterboxd users. But maybe Priscilla’s life was just that lonely. There are short clips of excitement when Elvis is in town, but a lot of her youth was school and waiting for him to get back. Elvis wanted a girl who would be there when he called. He denied her getting a job because when he called, she had to pick up. He was that classic, old-school guy who made fun of career-driven women, who hated everything that wasn’t the traditional man-and-woman dynamic. And Coppola shows him as a little harsh, and in my opinion, Elvis needed a little bash on his name.
Throughout the entire film Priscilla grows in isolation; she tries to discover herself in loneliness. The constant change of atmosphere is a teller of that. When Elvis is in town, it’s nothing but party, and Priscilla doesn’t want to ruin the time she has with him by telling him that she is struggling. Cailee Spaeny does an amazing job portraying every era of Priscilla. Coppola doesn’t give her much dialogue about how she’s feeling. She’s not going up to the mirror and spieling a monologue that declares “I’M SAD” to the audience. The audience can tell she’s a teenage girl who feels every emotion. She’s vulnerable.
This is not an Elvis movie. This is a movie about a young girl being in love for the first time. And the guy happens to be “The King.” Elvis is barely ever seen without Priscilla.
With Elvis being the main topic in everyday life, the audience sees Priscilla being a doll, and her dollhouse is Graceland. As for the montages, how else would you show someone’s memories? How would you go in-depth with a character that people already know? Little trinket shots of things that Priscilla had tell who she was. When Elvis went home and she was still in Germany with her family, she has an “I like Elvis” pin. When she enters Elvis’ room, there’s a huge tiger statue. It’s what Priscilla remembers, and it shows character. A fade-to-black isn’t an ending throughout the movie; it’s a step to the next memory.
But I do wish she remembered she had color coordinated guns for every outfit she planned.
Priscilla has the most heartbreaking ending. Not the end of the marriage that we all knew was coming, but when Priscilla actually leaves Graceland. She wears a simple white blouse as no dialogue is spoken, but a slow country song plays with Dolly Parton’s voice singing, “If I should stay / I would only be in your way / So I’ll go, but I know / I’ll think of you each step of the way.”
She looks determined while she grips the wheel with both hands, driving towards the big gates of the Graceland estate. Right when she goes through the gates, her expression hardens as she takes deep breaths almost to fight back tears. Right then, the song builds up, and Parton continues, “And I will always love you / I will always love you.” Black screen. Credits roll.
Speaking at a press conference in Venice for the Venice Film Festival 2023, hours before the premiere of Priscilla, Presley clarified her reasons for leaving: “It wasn’t because I didn’t love him – he was the love of my life. It was the lifestyle that was so difficult for me […]”
Elvis was Priscilla’s first love. And Coppola shows her as a teenager being giddy for a boy to a woman finding herself and realizing she wants more. Priscilla is Coppola’s loneliest girl.
Priscilla screens starting Wednesday, November 22nd.
Wednesday, Nov 22nd – 3:15pm, 8pm
Friday, Nov 24th – 2:45pm, 7:45pm
Saturday, Nov 25th – 5pm
Sunday, Nov 26th – 7:15pm
Monday, Nov 27th – 3pm
Tuesday, Nov 28th – 3pm, 5:30pm, 8pm
Wednesday, Nov 29th – 3pm, 5:30pm
Thursday, Nov 30th – 3pm, 5:30pm
Friday, Dec 1st – 3pm
Saturday, Dec 2nd – 12:30pm
Sunday, Dec 3rd – 3pm
Monday, Dec 4th – 3pm
Tuesday, Dec 5th – 3pm
Wednesday, Dec 6th – 3pm
Tuesday, Dec 7th – 3pm