October 19, 2023

VIFF 2023 | Sofia Coppola Stylizes the Coming-of-Age 'Priscilla'

"He's not like you imagine."
Cailee Spaeny Jacob Elordi Sofia Coppola | Priscilla A24
Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2023—Celebrated filmmaker Sofia Coppola faithfully adapts Priscilla Presley's (née Beaulieu) famed bestselling 1985 memoir Elvis and Me into a tender yet piercing coming-of-age biographical drama of her own. Starring Cailee Spaeny, Priscilla is a subdued but darkly illuminating portrait of a naïve teenage girl's lost childhood thrust into stardom as the wife of the rock 'n roll icon in a welcome antidote to last year's maximalist Elvis movie musical.

Jacob Elordi co-stars as Elvis himself in a difficult but admirable role as the more domestic but clearly darker version of the larger-than-life rock legend. Spaeny is wondrously affecting in a fine performance spanning her discovery as a ninth-grader plucked out of obsurity from a lonely home life in a military family overseas to a young bride locked away in Graceland's isolated shadow of stardom.

The talented and deliberate Coppola hardly treads new ground or material yet brings a light touch to stylizing the life of Priscilla inside and outside of the limelight. Her penchant for expressing the gentle iconography of feminin power through history (not unlike the reconsidered legacy of something like Marie Atoinette) continues to be something to be worth admiring.

Coppola and Spaeny do justice to the often icky relationship between Priscilla and Evlis while putting their wide power dynamic and age gap (14 vs. 24) at the forefront while still setting it firmly in its mid-century era of twisted romance. It's a stirring portrayal beyond the glamorious curtain of fame. Finally, that closing needle drop and shot is an all-timer.

Priscilla screened at the 2023 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Special Presentations series at the Vancouver Playhouse.

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