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Priscilla 15

Sofia Coppola, USA, 2023, 113m.

The eagerly-anticipated new film from iconic writer-director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), Priscilla is a moving, nuanced and visually ravishing exploration of the dark side of celebrity, delicately retelling and re-examining one of history’s most complicated love stories.

West Germany, late 1950s. Teenage Priscilla Beaulieu (Golden Globe nominee Cailee Spaeny) receives an invitation to a party with Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi, Saltburn). Already a meteoric rock-and-roll superstar at this time, Elvis becomes someone entirely unexpected in their private moments together: a thrilling crush, an ally in loneliness, a gentle best friend. Through Priscilla’s eyes, Coppola presents the unseen story of their long courtship and turbulent marriage: a great American myth spanning decades and oceans, from the army base where they met to his dream-world estate at Graceland.

Faithfully adapting Priscilla’s own memoir, and anchored by Spaeny’s Venice Best Actress winning performance, this is a mature and masterful cinematic feast for the senses that sees Coppola at the very top of her game.

The Garden Cinema View:

In stark contrast to Baz Luhrmann’s recent bombastic and kaleidoscopic hagiography of Elvis, Sofia Coppola’s portrait of his (very) young wife Priscilla operates on a far more intimate scale. This is a particularly fine meeting of filmmaker and subject as Priscilla’s infatuation with the ultimate object of desire evokes the visualisation of teenage lust in The Virgin Suicides, and Graceland twists into a gilded cage akin to Versailles in Marie Antoinette. Cailee Spaeny is revelatory as the starstruck Priscilla, slowly coming to terms with the rough reality of her fantasy. And cornering the market for privileged charmers (see Saltburn and the upcoming The Sweet East), Jacob Elordi frames Elvis as an eternal child-brat, imprisoning Priscilla as a means to retain some bastion of innocence amongst his affairs and drug addiction. And yet despite the stifling atmosphere and horrific treatment, Coppola’s Priscilla is imbued with the strength to control her situation, and ‘The King’ is ultimately sidelined - as is indeed his music amongst the fabulous jukebox soundtrack.  

Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi

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