Thursday, April 28, 2016

Movie Review #416: "Elvis & Nixon" (2016)

Movie"Elvis & Nixon"
Director: Liza Johnson
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Image Source
Disenchanted with the direction America is heading, Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) decides he needs to meet with President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) so he can be appointed an undercover federal agent at large. Though Nixon is not thrilled with the idea of meeting Elvis, the King and his people are determined to make it happen.

Directed by Liza Johnson, "Elvis & Nixon" is a comedy based on the real life meeting between Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon in December 1970. It stars two fantastic actors in the titular roles that are each the perfect fit for their part, though you might not expect them to be associated with the characters they are playing. Michael Shannon is excellent as 'The King of Rock 'n' Roll,' Elvis Presley, and the incomparable Kevin Spacey takes on the role of former president Richard Nixon. Each plays their part with a certain level of sincerity mixed with a bit of caricature that is perfect for a comedy like this. Let's be real, neither Shannon nor Spacey looks exactly like their real life counterpart, but with a bit of shadowing and makeup, we totally bought it. Shannon, lanky and intimidatingly tall, when donning Elvis's clothing and sunglasses, is truly something to be experienced as a moviegoer. He is absurd in the best sense, bad karate moves, gigantic gold rings, giggling and all. Shannon plays up Elvis' style to off-the-wall status, and we couldn't love it more. Spacey, with a grumbling voice and a hunched over stature, so perfectly embodies Richard Nixon's staunch bitchiness. Full of expletives, brooding, grouchy, and unwilling to meet with anyone during nap time, not even King of Rock 'n' Roll, Spacey so perfectly encapsulates what we'd expect Nixon to be like behind closed doors. From side angles and when he's moving quickly, Spacey really does look like he could be Nixon.

The downright absurd circumstances that would bring these two historical icons together makes for a riveting and hilarious movie. One day while watching TV (well, to be accurate, 3 TVs) and seeing stories about crime, drugs, poverty, the general state of the nation, Elvis gets fed up and decides he needs to personally do something about it. By this point in his life, Elvis is so disconnected with how the real world works, he decides he needs to have a face-to-face meeting with the president so he can become an undercover federal agent at large and do whatever he can to restore his great country to its rightful, peaceful state. Without any help, on his own and of his own accord, Presley hops a plane Washington DC and, after writing a letter to the president on board, walks up to the White House's northwest gate and requests a meeting with Nixon. Though the president isn't exactly thrilled about the idea and initially says no (read: "who the f*ck set this up?"), Elvis and his friends are determined to use every single bit of Elvis's celebrity status to make sure the meeting happens.

When it comes down to it, some may say "Elvis & Nixon" doesn't have enough plot because it's based on a photograph of the event someone thought would make a good feature length film, but this photograph has spawned something much more hilarious than one could ever imagine. You wouldn't think a film about this short meeting between Elvis and Nixon would make for a compelling comedy, but it really does and it's extremely well written in our opinion. We were absolutely riveted with the film, the situation, the acting by Spacey and Shannon, the precision point dialogue, the odd mannerisms of Elvis, and the character interactions. It is loaded with wit and awkward moments that bring the laughs throughout its 86 minute run time. The back and forth between the President and The King when they first meet had us and everyone else in our theater riotously laughing as the two compare who has the bigger, and really, in a way, try to find out which one has more clout with the world at large.

Going into "Elvis & Nixon," we really didn't know what to expect, but we left the theater immensely pleased with what we had just watched. It has always been a privilege to watch Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon act separately, so watching them together on the big screen is like being a kid on Christmas morning. We found ourselves hanging on their every brilliantly spoken, truly ridiculous word with our eyes widened and our mouths grinning, that is, when we weren't wiping the tears away from its massively hilarious yet simple plot. See this comedy, you won't regret it!

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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