One year after Baz Luhrmann’s visual extravaganza about the King of Rock n’ Roll, a more settled version of the story comes through the point-of-view of his wife, Priscilla Presley (Cailee Spaeny), with the blessing of Priscilla herself. Spaeny is the perfect choice to portray Priscilla from age 14 in 1958 to the mid-70s when Priscilla leaves the legend. There’s no spoiler here since we knew about this, but writer/director Sofia Coppola gives an alternate view of life with The King and makes it more of a domestic drama than exploring Elvis’ career. There is mention of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, but he is unseen.
Jacob Elordi plays Elvis and a more subdued version without the singing and the sweat Austin Butler gave us a year ago. Through Coppola’s script, this is a more tender Elvis at the start of their courtship. They have no reservations about their age difference (Elvis was in his mid-20s when he first met Priscilla). Priscilla finds him exhilarating to be around. Whether Coppola was cautious of this or not, the love is portrayed as a careful one due to his superstardom and the press surrounding him with no pressure for any sexual initiation. To Elvis, having her around him before they even marry makes him happy.
Both Spaeny and Elordi give strong performances that complement Luhrmann’s version and keep us grounded. Without giving us specific years, the evolution of their relationship is followed like the opening pages of a picture book. These are more intimate moments, even when the scenes include Elvis’ friends and family at Graceland. No flash is needed as Coppola likes to keep her scenes subdued. Even in the transition to Vegas, she does not show Elordi in song, and frankly, they are not needed.
Spaeny’s performance is the personification of the real Priscilla, and she keeps still the maturity of her character from child to independent adult. This is her story, and very much about Priscilla handling the power dynamic against Elvis once she has grown up. Priscilla is about a portrait of a celebrity marriage, the loneliness one feels without any support, and the desire to balance love with freedom.