Elvis & Nixon online movie review - Schedule an appointment to introduce yourself to "Elvis & Nixon" at your earliest convenience.
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, as the comedy-docudrama "Elvis & Nixon" (R, 1:26) so clearly and gleefully demonstrates. The movie focuses on a real-life meeting on December 21, 1970 between U.
S. President Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'n Roll (details to follow in my plot summary). A 1997 TV movie about this incident claims on its promotional poster "Truth is Funnier than Fiction". Yup, also true. A preview clip for that earlier film includes singer Wayne Newton saying, "You can't make this up." Well, you kind of have to ? at least when it comes to the details. The words on the screen at the very beginning of 2016's "Elvis & Nixon" point out that it wasn't until two months after he met with Elvis that Nixon infamously began taping White House conversations (which is why the movie poster cleverly describes the plot as the meeting of "two of America's greatest recording artists"). Without a transcript of this meeting between who were then two of the most famous men in the world, writers Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal and Cary Elwes had to fill in the gaps between the known facts of this event ? and got to have fun with it but kept away from changing the basic facts or overlooking the humanity of its subjects.
Elvis Presley (Oscar nominee Michael Shannon) is frustrated. He's annoyed by his wife and father nagging him about his spending habits. He's deeply bothered by the inability (or unwillingness) of the public to see him as more than "a thing". Mostly (and most urgently), he's very upset about the news. He sits alone in the original man cave (the famous Jungle Room at his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee) simultaneously watching news programs on three different TVs, as was his habit. He sees reports about the Vietnam War, counter-culture protests and civil rights violations and he has an idea that would address his concerns for the nation ? and maybe deal with some of his other frustrations.
Elvis leaves his home (sneaks out) ? alone ? for the first time since he was 21, and books an airline flight. He has some? trouble getting on the plane (I won't spoil it), but he makes it to Los Angeles and meets with Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer), an old friend and former member of Elvis' "Memphis Mafia". Elvis says that he needs Jerry to fly with him from L.A. to D.C. on "a secret mission". Jerry is trying to make his own way in the entertainment industry, but he finally agrees to help out his old friend, whom he calls "E". In Washington D.C., the two later link up with another old friend, Sonny West (the world's most famous jackass, Johnny Knoxville). Elvis drives up to the White House gates (before all the modern barriers were in place) and asks to meet with President Nixon about an urgent matter. He gives the gate guards a letter that he wrote on the plane, asking to be made an official "Undercover Agent at Large" so he can help combat the youth drug culture of the 1970s. Elvis makes a couple other stops in the city (shocking fans at every turn) and then returns to the hotel, waiting to hear back from the White House.
President Nixon (Oscar winner Kevin Spacey) doesn't care to meet with Elvis. When he sees the appointment on his calendar for that day, his response is vintage Nixon. "Who the f*** set this up?". He doesn't think that the Leader of the Free World should drop everything to meet with a famous singer who just shows up uninvited. Besides, the meeting is scheduled during Nixon's daily nap time. Clearly, the two young, but high-ranking staffers who want this meeting, Egil Krogh (Colin Hanks) and Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters), have some convincing to do. They believe that a public show of support from the world's most popular single entertainer would help Nixon with the youth vote in his upcoming re-election campaign. Nixon isn't swayed, so Krogh and Chapin resort to underhanded means to make the President change his mind.
Obviously, Elvis and his companions eventually get inside the White House, but I won't spoil anything by giving away too many the details. I can say that there's a subplot in which Jerry grows increasingly anxious about the time because he needs to fly back to L.A. in order to meet the parents of his girlfriend (Sky Ferreira). As Jerry struggles with his loyalty to his girlfriend versus his loyalty to his old friend, the meeting between Elvis and Nixon takes place (as we already knew from little things like the movie poster? and history). I'll just say that there's a somewhat bizarre and very revealing conversation, a couple other surprises and then, of course, they take that iconic photo ? copies of which are requested from the National Archives more than any other image ? ever. (Like Wayne Newton said?) "Elvis & Nixon" is a fun and insightful movie ? and it's not just the audience having the fun. Elwes and the Sagals must have had a blast coming up with ideas for this script ? maybe even as much fun as director Liza Johnson had helming it, and Shannon and Spacey had playing the leads. Both men are known to Movie Fans as great actors, and Spacey for his talent doing impressions (seriously ? google it), and both give funny, yet subtle performances which offer up insights into what drove each ? and how fame affected them each. See this movie to marvel at the great acting and gain a greater appreciation for who these men were as people, men who had reached the pinnacle of success in their respective fields of endeavor. The enjoyment of making this movie shows through the work of all those involved ? and it'll rub off on most Movie Fans, who will probably also learn a few things. "A-"