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Film / Elvis (2022)

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"I just gotta be making the most of this thing while I can. This could all be over in a flash."
Elvis Presley

Elvis is a 2022 biographical musical drama film about Elvis Presley directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Austin Butler as Elvis and Tom Hanks as Elvis’ infamously strict and manipulative manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

Told from the point of view of Parker on his deathbed in 1997 following a stroke, the film focuses on the relationship between the two men, and the conflict that grows between them as Elvis' career develops. Stretching from their first meeting, Presley's many different career pivots and swings, all the way to their respective deaths.

Much like several of Luhrmann's previous films, such as Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby, Elvis combines and mixes various aesthetic and musical styles, both contemporary and modern, in its depiction of history. The film's soundtrack includes actual Elvis recordings, performances of Elvis' songs by Butler, as well as modern artists performing variations on Elvis' songs as well as new songs. According to Luhrmann, this integration of the jazz and rock of the film's time period with current-day pop, R&B and hip-hop was done to communicate the radical impact of Elvis' sound.

The film was released in theaters on June 24, 2022.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

Elvis contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Elvis' father sides with Col. Parker in keeping his son drugged up during his Las Vegas residency in order to keep him performing.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the film, Elvis is presented as a generally affable guy in spite of a few moments of justifiable anger. In real life, Elvis ,according to his ex- wife, had an irrationally explosive temper. He is also portrayed as a decent husband to Priscilla for the majority of the film. In her autobiography, Elvis and Me, Elvis is presented as being controlling, possessive as well as somewhat abusive towards her.
  • Age Lift: Of the "lightly glossed over" variety, both due to the film's expedited timeline and a likely case of Values Dissonancenote  about a 24-year-old man doting on a ninth grader. In real life, Priscilla was just fourteen when she first met Elvis during his military service in Germany. In the film she's just described as "teenaged" and the meeting in Germany serves as synecdoche for a multi-year period of on-and-off courtship. Later in the film, however, the age difference is acknowledged as one of many sources of friction between them.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Early on in the film, there's a scene of some teenage girls dreamily watching Elvis's appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. There's also a teenage boy sitting to the right of them, and there's a close-up on him to show that he's just as entranced as the girls are, with a euphoric smile on his face. There was also another boy during the Russwood Park concert that was reaching out to him same as the girls.
  • Anachronistic Soundtrack: Along with Elvis' usual songs, a few modern pop and rap songs are mixed in with the soundtrack, along with more modern artists putting their own spins on Elvis' songs. This is to be expected, given that it's part of Baz Luhrmann's Signature Style. Ultra-modern hip-hop songs are used to help the audience to understand that the era's African-American music that may seem tame now was considered edgy at the time, and heavily afflicted by Public Medium Ignorance; Elvis' "Viva Las Vegas" is mashed up with Britney Spears' "Toxic" to reflect Elvis the safe commercial product; and Elvis's self-declared invoked Spiritual Successor Eminem raps over the end credits to represent Elvis's legacy.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Technically an in-universe example when someone refers to Tom Parker's birth country as "Holland." Justified by the fact that "Holland" is an informal nickname for The Netherlands, but it is not the actual name for that country — it specifically refers to North and South Holland, which are only two of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands. Tom Parker was from another province, Brabant.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Unlike the movie, where Tom Hanks gives him a thick, vaguely Dutch accent, the real Tom Parker spoke with a very American accent with only a few slight hints of foreign influence.
    • The Russwood Park concert in the film had Elvis sing 'Trouble' and it was the only song he got to sing before being arrested. In real life, 'Trouble' was first heard in Elvis’ movie King Creole in 1958 while the Russwood Park concert was in 1956 and he sang 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You', 'Blue Suede Shoes', 'Long Tall Sally' and 'Hound Dog' amongst others. Also he was not arrested, he was escorted by police to and out of the concert for his own protection as there were concerns that the girls in the audience would mob him.
    • The real International Hotel was only known as such for two years after its opening before becoming the Las Vegas Hilton in 1971, a name it would retain until 2012. The hotel is now called the Westgate Las Vegas.
    • Elvis makes a furious, intoxicated show of firing Colonel onstage at the International Hotel, a dramatic event that did not occur in real life. He really did fire the Colonel for a night in 1973, but it was behind closed doors, and he subsequently rehired the man after discovering that their years-long partnership put him deep in financial trouble, as depicted in the movie — it just wasn't a public affair.
    • The movie shows the elderly Parker injured in a fall while trying to retrieve a box of Elvis memorabilia at his home and was found lying on the floor. The real life Parker had suffered a stroke and was found by his wife slumped over in a living room chair.
    • RFK's assassination occurred in early June 1968 during the pre-production of the Christmas special and not during the production itself, which happened late in that month.
    • By having a character read a newspaper covering the murder, the film implies the Sharon Tate murder happened around the same time as the infamous Altamont Free Concert. In reality, these events were separated by nearly four months.
    • Colonel Parker never arranged for Priscilla to be publicly humiliated at one of her husband's concerts. By Priscilla's own admission to a surprised Tom Hanks, Parker was always polite to her.
    • Exactly how motivated and enthusiastic Elvis was about the Civil Rights movement and how much he desired to take an activist role in it is heavily debatable. While more willing to acknowledge his debt to African American artists than at times acknowledged by contemporary commentators, the movie translates this to a passionate desire to involve himself in Civil Rights politics, where the real Elvis's political leanings appear to have been much more conservative than the movie makes out. Notably, it leaves out his (in)famous 1970 meeting with then-President Richard Nixon, in which he expressed an interest in becoming a federal agent in order to crack down on leftist politics and drug use within the music industry (somewhat hypocritically given his own drug habits). He also famously attacked left-leaning artists like John Lennon of The Beatles and Jane Fonda as "unAmerican" (in Lennon's case, Elvis wanted him to be thrown out of America due to his anti-war views.)
    • During the Comeback Special story-line, the film acts like Elvis' version of "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)" was released in 1968. The song was actually released in 1957, 11 years before the Comeback Special aired. "Here Comes Santa Claus" also wasn't the song Elvis was supposed to perform instead of "If I Can Dream", it was actually "I'll Be Home For Christmas".
    • The lawsuit filed by the Presley estate against Parker after Elvis's death was essentially forced upon the former by the state courts after Elvis's financial records had been thoroughly examined. The family spent the entire proceedings looking very apologetic towards Parker, he got a sizable settlement out of it, and he remained close to the Presleys right up to his death, even attending Lisa Marie's wedding to Michael Jackson.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Elvis's fame and wealth allows him to emulate his childhood hero, Captain Marvel Jr. — an effort that is thematically revisited throughout the film as multiple parallels are made between the superhero and the musical superstar.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: The movie briefly switches aspect ratios a few times to recreate news footage and televised appearances of Elvis with Austin Butler in his place.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Elvis' childhood dreams of becoming a superhero, specifically Captain Marvel Jr., and living in the Rock of Eternity with his father basically comes true during his Las Vegas residency, except he's relegated to cosplaying as the comic character in captive performances where the International Hotel is more of a prison.
  • Behind Every Great Man: The two strongest and most reliable people in Elvis' life are his mother and his wife. He would have fallen apart long before his 40s without them.
  • Beauty Inversion: The handsome, distinguished-looking and well-groomed Tom Hanks is almost unrecognizable as the balding, overweight and slovenly Tom Parker.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Elvis is, for the most part, as polite, kind and sincere a guy as you could ever meet, just as he was in real life. But when he finally has enough of Colonel Parker, he shows he is also capable of genuinely frightening anger.
  • Bowdlerize: In the trailer for the movie, when Elvis first performs at the Hayride, an audience member yells out to him, "Get a haircut, buttercup!" In the movie itself, the line is "Get a haircut, fairy!" With "fairy" being a homophobic slur, the line was too explicit for the trailer.
  • Big Bad: Colonel Parker's role in the movie. He spends the first half controlling every aspect of Elvis' career, from his dancing to the way he dresses to even what type of music he sings, then once Elvis becomes a superstar, he takes advantage of him by taking 50% of his earnings only to blow them on casinos and preventing him from taking international tours.
  • Bittersweet Ending: As is the Foregone Conclusion: Elvis spends his last years addicted to prescription drugs and in poor physical and mental health, ending in an Undignified Death at the age of 42. The Colonel's financial abuse of Elvis doesn't come to light until a few years after Elvis' death, and the Colonel spends his last years financially ruined.note  Though Elvis' career and life both end tragically young, he remains the best-selling solo music artist of all time to this day, and continues to leave a huge impact on music.
  • Brutal Honesty: When asked, Steve Binder tells Elvis that his career is "in the toilet." His candor tells Elvis this is the right man to save his career.
  • Chick Magnet: While performing for a radio show in Louisiana, Elvis has such strong sex appeal that the women in the audience practically throw themselves at him, with Parker noting that one of them looks like she's going through a sexual awakening. When he goes out on a tour shortly afterwards, girls keep showing up to his motel room, which annoys him because he can't go out anywhere at night.
  • Composite Character: Two different Southern Gospel quartets performed with Elvis at the International; the Imperials and JD Sumner and the Stamps. Only one quartet is shown, which is named the Imperials but bears more resemblance to the Stamps.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    • As the crowds of screaming girls go wild over Elvis and reach out to him, Elvis' mother expresses worry over her son's safety while his father is hilariously indifferent.
      Gladys Presley: Oh, Lord, please don't hurt my baby!
      Vernon Presley: Hurt him? They look like they want to— (Smash Cut to the screaming girls pulling at Elvis' shirt)
    • Upon seeing Elvis performing on television, the politician (a segregationist) reacts thusly:
      "A white boy from Memphis, moving like a goddamn"— [cuts away]
  • Deadly Distant Finale: The film begins in 1997 with Colonel Parker being rushed to the hospital suffering from a stroke and injuries from falling down that will soon become fatal. The rest of the film is about Elvis' rise and fall and his involvement in all of it.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Elvis agreeing to have Col. Parker as his manager is framed as one, with the singer signing over control over his artistic destiny to the obviously evil Parker in exchange for his promises of fame and fortune.
    • Happens a second time when Elvis is intent on firing Parker, but then the latter convinces him to perform in the International Hotel. It leads to Elvis ending up in heavy debt, the destruction of his family life and the deterioration of his physical health.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: By modern-day standards, Elvis' iconic dance style is incredibly tame. In the 50s, however, it was seen as so vulgar that it threatened his career and even got him arrested. The film also does not shy away from the fact that Elvis's dance moves were controversial simply because they were influenced by African American musical artists, something that didn't fly in an extremely segregationist South.
  • Dirty Coward: Both Colonel Parker and Vernon Presley are this. The Colonel constantly avoids hard situations and points fingers, whereas Vernon has plenty of opportunities to help Elvis, but never actually comes through when necessary.
  • Dramatic Irony: In their last scene together, Elvis tells Pricilla no one will ever remember him and that he didn't do anything lasting.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point:
    • Elvis doesn't understand that both his mother and Priscilla would gladly give up the life of luxury he provides them with if it means he gets to be happy and spend more time with them.
    • Col. Parker fails to grasp that the reason Elvis is so popular is because of the "vulgar" rock-and-roll he performs and that all of his attempts to make him into a family entertainer in an effort to increase his stardom just cause his popularity and bankability to plummet. The film makes it clear that all of Elvis' most successful endeavors, such as his Comeback Special, were successful because of his ideas, not Parker's.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Gladys grows ever more concerned for her son's well-being because of the travails of fame, and later, the army, and increasingly turns to drinking for comfort.
  • Elemental Motifs: Lightning. Elvis has an electrifying presence, and it highlights his love of Captain Marvel Jr. comics, as the hero has a lightning bolt as his insignia.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe, Colonel Parker (and producers) try to hijack Elvis' career first by trying to mold him into a non-sexual, "family-friendly" Elvis, and then by forcing him to be a family entertainer rather than a rock-and-roller.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: During the "Hound Dog" scene, Elvis is shown making even a guy go just a little crazy for him... just a little.
  • Everybody Smokes: As most of the film is set during a time when smoking was more socially acceptable, most of the characters are seen lighting up at one point or another. Parker even lit up in his hospital room, a practice that would certainly not be permitted in hospitals now.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Col. Parker sets himself up as a kindly parental figure in Elvis' life, something he uses as leverage to manipulate the singer's emotions and career. Of course, what little affection the manager has for Elvis is solely directed at his fortune and nothing more.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Elvis' downfall could have been avoided, if only he had listened to his wife and cut ties with the Colonel, rather than heading to Vegas, visiting him in the hospital and giving him a chance to manipulate Elvis once more.
  • Framing Device: The movie uses Parker's remembering his time with Elvis while dying in a Las Vegas hospital as a framing device.
  • Freudian Excuse: Elvis' desire to live a life of luxury clearly stems from his family's financial struggles growing up and him wanting to avoid going back to living in poverty.
  • The Gambling Addict: Colonel Parker is one, to an extreme degree. He gambles away almost all his own money and his getting Elvis to headline in Vegas is mostly done to both clear his debts and gain unlimited credit.
  • Gilded Cage: Elvis' penthouse at the International Hotel becomes this, as Col. Parker schemes to make sure that he never performs anywhere else, nor goes anywhere else without his say-so.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Elvis deciding to act on his own and going against Parker's desire for him to perform in a corny, milquetoast, Christmas music special in order to create a comeback special that will help him regain some artistic dignity after seemingly being labeled as a has-been. While the comeback special puts Elvis back on top, it makes him a big enough draw that the Colonel is able to leverage that into his Las Vegas residency, and thus deeper under his thumb.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Senator James Eastland. He not only serves as the film's face of the bigoted and puritanical Deep South establishment that makes life miserable for Elvis, other rock musicians, and people in general, but his discovering Colonel Parker's true identity and blackmailing him over it is what prompts the latter's Control Freak tendencies to really spiral out of control.
  • Hall of Mirrors: A young Elvis inadvertently escapes Parker's clutches by ducking into a house of mirrors, only for him to get lost and cornered by Parker. Parker offers him a way out, figuratively by offering him to make him famous enough to leave his poor neighborhood and literally by opening a hidden door out of the house.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Colonel Tom Parker is a monstrously selfish, out-of-touch con artist who parasitically leeches off of Elvis's success while cutting the fog any opportunities that allow Elvis to do what he wants so Parker can keep his grip on his meal ticket. Not only that, but he refuses to accept responsibility for his actions and points the fingers at pretty much everyone but himself for Elvis' downfall.
    • Even more so is the political racist bigot that is Senator Eastland, whose close-minded, bigoted views against African-Americans are the reason why he blackmails Tom Parker into "sanitizing" Elvis under the threat of exposing Parker's immigration status. This results in the "new", more family-friendly Elvis Presley, much to the frustration of Presley himself and his fans. What makes this scumbag of a person even more jarring is that the exact same scene where Presley rebels against the Colonel and Eastland during a concert, Eastland is seen proudly preaching white supremacy under the confederate flag, showing how proudly devoted he is to his close-minded and hateful views.
  • Homage: The movie is a big one to the Captain Marvel mythos, and goes to great lengths to draw parallels between Elvis himself and Captain Marvel Jr., as well as Col. Parker to the Wizard Shazam.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The film blames Parker for Elvis' drug addiction by having him pump his client with narcotics so he can perform, but Parker was completely uninvolved with that and tried to ween Elvis off his drug addiction (and, to a lesser extent, his binge-eating) by tricking him with placebos; and once Elvis' health deteriorated, Parker suggested that the King should take a respite starting in 1975, but Vernon refused and threatened to have him fired if he made the suggestion again. Parker was also just as horrified by Elvis' unhealthy lifestyle as Priscilla, even allowing a trio of disgruntled former bodyguards to co-write and publish a tell-all book about it—against Elvis' explicit instructions—in the hopes that the scandal from it would make Elvis go cold turkey and eat better. And finally, Parker got along quite well with Priscilla, who had mostly good things to say about him when Tom Hanks broached the subject to her, much to the latter's surprise. She even attended Parker's funeral and delivered the following eulogy:
    Priscilla: Elvis and the Colonel made history together, and the world is richer, better and far more interesting because of their collaboration. And now I need to locate my wallet, because I noticed there was no ticket booth on the way in here, but I'm sure that the Colonel must have arranged for some toll on the way out.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Elvis' dance style is a huge factor into his instant success as a musician, but it eventually earns him public ridicule for being too vulgar. Producers, along with Colonel Parker, try to strongarm Elvis to be more family-friendly, much to the ire of his devoted fans. Between staying true to himself and fans as "old, vulgar Elvis," or safely ensuring his career with "new, family-friendly Elvis," he chooses the former.
    • Convinced that Elvis' careers as both a musician and an actor are over, Colonel Parker pushes Elvis to become a "family entertainer" instead, and hooks him up with a TV Christmas special. Elvis feels that this will be the nail in the coffin for the "real" Elvis, but the TV producers threaten a lawsuit should he not perform the Christmas songs he's contracted to. With the help of Steve Binder, Elvis hijacks the show into the infamous "Comeback Special," risking the lawsuit to rejuvinate his career as a rock-and-roll star.
    • The loyalty that Elvis feels he owes Parker for discovering him and giving him his first breaks keeps the singer under the thrall of the manager for a long time after his friends and family have begun to realize that the Colonel doesn't have Presley's best interest at heart.
  • Humble Hero: Elvis himself is introduced as "The King" at a public event alongside his inspiration Fats Domino, but he humbly rejects the notion and says that Fats is the real king of rock and roll, despite being far less famous.
  • Hype Backlash: Used in-universe when Parker is going through the merchandise. He holds up "I hate Elvis" buttons alongside "I love Elvis" ones; when Elvis' mother questions this, Parker says that someone is going to make money off of those buttons, so it might as well be them.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Parker grins through Eastland grilling him on his desertion during his second enlistment, but he tries to laugh off accusations of psychosis, claiming he faked it to get out of military service when he actually had a genuinely bad reaction to being punished with solitary confinement for going AWOL.
  • It's All About Me: Colonel Parker can spin a good tale that he's doing what's best for Elvis but it's made abundantly clear that everything he does is done to benefit himself first and foremost. His first lines on the film, said as he's lying on his death bed in the back of an ambulance? That he cannot believe the world has painted him as the villain of the story.
  • It Will Never Catch On: When Parker hears an Elvis record for the first time not knowing that he's white, he dismisses it since he's sure black artists will never achieve success with mainstream audiences.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Colonel Tom Parker may attempt to present himself as someone who cares for Elvis' well-being, even when narrating, but it's abundantly clear that his greedy, manipulative nature is responsible for his early, untimely demise, as it's largely what got Elvis addicted to a variety of stimulants to keep performing and kept him from branching out as an artist. Even in the few moments that he gets where he tries to comfort an emotionally-distraught Elvis, it is all done for the purpose of further tightening his grip over the man.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: While Parker is undoubtedly a good showman and manipulator, he doesn't understand as much about the music industry or popular taste as he thinks he does. He fails to grasp that Elvis is at his most appealing when he's bold and transgressive, and his attempts to make the King of Rock into a squeaky-clean, uncontroversial family entertainer just end up neutering him and dumbing him down.
  • Large Ham: It's a Baz Luhrmann film about Elvis so naturally, this trope is in full force whenever he gets on stage. Colonel Tom Parker also gets in on the action a lot with Tom Hanks gleefully devouring scenery.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • A posthumous example with Colonel Parker: the movie does not directly punish him for his contribution to Elvis' downfall, as in the movie he doesn't face jail time. But he ends up punished in a different way: his financial abuse of Elvis comes to light a few years after the singer's death, the Presley family successfully sues him for it and forces him into a legal settlement, he's scorned by the newspapers and the public at large for "killing Elvis", and he ends up spending his final years wandering Las Vegas casinos and wasting his remaining fortune on gambling, so there's no "legacy" for him to leave behind. Meanwhile, while Elvis was afraid that he'd never accomplish anything that lasted, he ends up becoming the best-selling solo artist of all time, leaving behind a legacy that's lasted to this day.
    • Parker also fakes a fall which causes serious injuries in order to manipulate Elvis into coming to Las Vegas. The beginning shows that the fatal condition which eventually kills him is triggered by a fall.
  • Look Behind You: In Elvis' first scene with Priscilla, they're chatting in a bedroom but get interrupted by Charlie Hodge outside the door telling Elvis that he promised Priscilla's father he'd get her home soon. Elvis responds, "Hey, Charlie. What's that behind you?" Once Charlie turns around, Elvis shuts the door.
    Elvis: He don't boss me around.
  • Magical Negro: The black preacher who inspires Elvis' signature dance and his gospel-inspired songs only exists in the story to lead a congregation in a song Elvis overhears.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Vernon Presley eventually realizes he screwed up big time as his son's business manager and wants to do whatever he can to reverse the damage. Sadly, it winds up being too late.
  • The New Rock & Roll: In the first half of the film, much is made of the opposition Elvis faced on the grounds he was corrupting the youth by introducing them to black music and dance. There's also mention of opposition on the grounds that his dancing is simply risqué, but the villains seems most concerned about the racial implications of Elvis' music.
  • Never My Fault: Colonel Parker truly believes that what he did was for Elvis' benefit and is unable to see that he was the bad guy in this story. He always points fingers to the "hippies" who "corrupted" Elvis, when in truth they were well-wishers who simply encouraged Elvis to pursue his own artistic desires, and blames Elvis' drug addiction on the audience, when Parker was the one who got him hooked on drugs in the first place to better keep him under his thumb.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: As fractured as their relationship has been, Elvis still thinks it's only right to visit Colonel Parker in hospital and cut ties with him directly. This gives Parker the opening to get his hooks in him once more and leads to Elvis' decline.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Parker states that both he, an old man struggling to strike wealth in showbiz, and Elvis, a young man with a budding music career, are "two odd lonely children, reaching out to eternity".
  • Opening Credits Cast Party: There's a parody of an opening credits sequence halfway through the movie. After we learn Elvis got married and started a career in Hollywood, him and his wife walk down a bus and pose by each member of their entourage as their names pop up on-screen.
  • Parents as People:
    • Gladys Presley loves her son dearly and is at first supportive of Elvis' music career, and is deeply concerned at how unhappy he becomes in light of the public turning against him for being "vulgar." At the same time, her fear of losing Elvis (her one remaining son, as his twin brother was stillborn) keeps her support limited—she balks at the idea of Elvis leaving for a mere four days to perform.
    • Vernon Presley is also shown loving his son deeply, and happily joins in helping with the finances of Elvis' career. However, his pushover nature and poor business acumen ends up hurting his son irreparably. He cows under Colonel Parker's pressure to drug Elvis so that he can perform after a collapse, and tries to shift blame of mismanaging Elvis' money onto Elvis. He swears to do anything he can to help Elvis overcome his debts to Parker, but unfortunately, there's nothing he can do.
    • Elvis himself dearly loves his little daughter Lisa Marie, but is often absent from her life due to his constant performing and his drug use.
  • Pet the Dog: In spite of his horrible treatment of Elvis, Parker's final line of dialogue has him give a glowing description of his client's final performance.
    Parker: [Elvis] could barely stand up. But that night, he sang—as he always did—with all his heart and soul. That old voice rang out, and he sang with all his life.
  • The Pornomancer: Elvis at first doesn't intend for his iconic on-stage dancing to be erotic, but from his first show, he has young women falling over themselves and him. He comes to embrace it, but is quickly scorned by the public for his "vulgarity."
  • Pretty Boy: A real-life example and very much so. Elvis was so pretty-looking and (at that time) sexually provocative to women, that he was viewed as a deviant by the incredibly conservative and racially segregated 1950s America.
  • Protest Song: "If I Can Dream", Elvis' anti-violence song that he writes and performs in his "Comeback Special". The song is even referred to as such by a newspaper.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: During his first tour, Elvis starts to sample drugs and women. During the late '60s and '70s, he spirals downward into both.
  • Shoot the Television: Playing off of the real figure's history of shooting his TV, the film's final act sees a drug-addled Elvis fire several rounds into a wall of televisions in a paranoid frenzy, highlighting how much his captivity at the International Hotel is eating away at him.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The trailers prominently feature references to Captain Marvel, who the real-life Elvis loved as a child.
    • The scene where Elvis shoots up a wall full of TVs during a paranoid fit echoes a similar scene in The Man Who Fell to Earth; fittingly, that film's lead actor had a longtime fascination with Elvis (thanks in part to sharing a birthday with him) and nearly got Elvis to sing "Golden Years" (which Tom Parker commissioned).
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty: Elvis is treated as a World Class Beauty, not only does he have good looks, but his great charisma and dancing skills make him irresistible to a lot of women.
  • Slimeball: "Colonel" Tom Parker is an amoral, slimy opportunist and conman who uses lies and manipulation to swindle millions of money from Elvis throughout his career, shamelessly leeching off the singer's talents even as Elvis' own life starts to suffer because of Parker's controlling ways. Morbidly obese and with an ugly personality to match, Parker is a textbook example of The Svengali.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Jimmie Rodgers Snow only has about fifteen minutes of screen time and disappears from the narrative after Parker takes on Elvis as his sole client, but he's the one who introduces Parker to Elvis Presley's music, setting the whole plot in motion.
  • Snobs Versus Slobs: Elements of this pop up when Elvis puts on a tuxedo and sings to an actual hound dog on the Steve Allen show; his mother interprets it as a bunch of New York snobs clowning on a rural hillbilly.
  • Southern Gentleman: Elvis from Tennessee. Tom Parker styles himself as one, though Real Life proves differently. note 
  • Staircase Tumble: How Gladys dies, while in her drunken state.
  • Stock Footage: Footage of the real Elvis and his associates are included intermittently throughout the film, most notably during the performance of "Unchained Melody" which seamlessly goes from Austin Butler's reenactment to the real performance of the King himself.
  • The Svengali: Colonel Tom Parker. While he claims he cares for Elvis and everything he does is for his benefit, the truth is he only cares for Elvis as his meal ticket and everything he does is to keep Elvis under his control and milk as much wealth from his stardom as possible.
  • Taking the Kids: Late in the movie, Priscilla leaves Elvis and takes Lisa-Marie with her. Contrary to what one might expect, however, it's not because Elvis might have been sleeping with other women while on the road. Priscilla even clarifies that she doesn't care about "the girls you sneak in through the side door." What actually drives Priscilla to leave is Elvis' drug habit, and the negative effect it has on his health.
  • Too Clever by Half: The Colonel is a shrewd conman but a terrible showbusiness manager, and when Elvis becomes famous his actions actually impede Elvis's career who has to actively counter him multiple times to revitalize his career.
  • Trade Your Passion for Glory: As Elvis becomes more and more successful, Colonel Parker and executives try to mold him into a "family friendly" entertainer who plays inoffensive music, while Elvis wants to continue playing the rock-and-roll music that he loves and made him popular in the first place. This also applies to his film career where he started off wanting to be a serious leading man, citing James Dean as an inspiration, but was forced into making mediocre films that banked on his image.
  • Tragic Dream: Elvis just wants to travel the world, record more serious music and play more serious dramatic roles as an actor. But Colonel Parker's manipulations stops him at every chance and leaves him feeling completely unfulfilled, even with his massive success, and getting him addicted to drugs to help him perform hastens his downfall.
  • Troll: When Elvis is playing at a baseball stadium, one of the police officers guarding the event tells him that he'll come after him if he so much as wiggles his pinky finger. One of the first things he does before starting his performance is to raise his hand and wiggle his pinky around.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Colonel Tom Parker narrates the film, and much of the events are told from his perspective. However, his penchant for exaggeration and deceit colors a lot of his contributions to Elvis' career and the relationship with Presley.
  • Unwitting Pawn: At the start of their association, Elvis is charmed at Colonel Tom Parker’s prospect of performing a massive “snow job” in showbiz, that is, a type of con where an audience is so flattered and pleased by a performance that they fork over more than is appropriate. It takes him more than a decade to realize that his manager’s been pulling one of these on him for years.
  • Villain Has a Point: Colonel Parker’s efficacy as Elvis' manager is spotty overall, but pressing Presley into relatively benign military service in Cold War Germany does manage to get the authorities off his back, he was critical of Elvis' reckless expenditure of his earnings (though he does take advantage of this behavior at the film's end), and the "Aloha from Hawaii" satellite concert he spearheaded was a resounding international success.
  • Vocal Dissonance: When Parker is told that Elvis is white while listening to one of his records, he's genuinely surprised, partly because rock and roll was considered a solely black genre at the time, and partly because Elvis genuinely sounds like a black man. This is Truth in Television; many listeners really did assume Elvis was black before his appearance became widespread knowledge.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Tom Hanks opts to go for a very peculiar attempt at a Dutch accent when playing Colonel Tom Parker. The real Tom Parker's Dutch accent wasn't nearly as pronounced, to the point where his voice sounded much like a generic American accent with a hint of a Dutch inflection.
  • Worth It: Parker dies largely remorseless. Despite having spent his last two decades in infamy, he claims that he “had a lot of fun” and it’s frequently shown that he genuinely enjoyed seeing Elvis perform despite admittedly not knowing much about music.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Colonel Parker fakes both a nasty fall hurting his back and a heart attack in order to lure Elvis to Las Vegas and sell him the plan to permanently perform at the International Hotel to prevent him from going on a world tour.

♫ Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to... me! ♫