Film Review: Priscilla | MarkMeets

Film Review: Priscilla – A Fresh Perspective on a Complex Relationship

Director: Sofia Coppola

In the realm of music biopics, Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” stands as a refreshing departure from the conventional narrative structure. It provides a captivating lens into the tumultuous relationship between Priscilla Presley and Elvis Presley. While the King of Rock and Roll plays a pivotal role, he is not portrayed as a hero in this film. Instead, “Priscilla” delves deep into the dynamics of their complex relationship, serving both as a biographical account and a portrait of a toxic union. Coppola’s work may not be without its flaws, but it excels in its complexity and depth, making it a notable deviation from the standard biopic formula.

The Swift Dive into the Narrative

“Priscilla” wastes no time in immersing viewers into its storyline. It commences when a 14-year-old Priscilla (played by Cailee Spaeny) encounters the 24-year-old Elvis (Jacob Elordi) through a mutual acquaintance in Germany. The attraction between the two is instant. Elvis courts Priscilla with gifts and attention, causing her to become infatuated with the pop icon. She finds herself yearning for him in his absence, neglecting her studies, and perturbing her parents, who question why Elvis, a grown man, spends his time with a teenager. Their communication continues sporadically over the years, but geographical distance places constraints on their relationship. Elvis covers the cost of Priscilla’s trip to Graceland, yet these vacations cannot compensate for the time lost.

To address this challenge, Elvis persuades Priscilla’s parents to permit her to stay with him in Tennessee. He assures them that she will attend a nearby private school and be taken care of by his family and household staff. Surprisingly, Priscilla’s parents consent. At the age of 17, Priscilla moves into Elvis’s mansion. The rest of the film unfolds as she navigates the complexities of her relationship with Elvis, contending with his mood swings, addictions, and aggressive demeanor.

Coming of Age Stolen

It’s difficult to imagine a more fitting director for “Priscilla” than Sofia Coppola. Throughout her cinematic career, she has consistently explored the nuances of coming of age, emphasizing the impact of one’s character, surroundings, and life experiences. “Priscilla” is no exception. While the primary focus is on the relationship between Priscilla and Elvis, the film delves into the theme of Priscilla’s stolen coming of age. Instead of embracing her teenage years and self-discovery, she is thrust into a world of adult problems. Furthermore, she is persistently seen as Elvis’s companion rather than her own individual. The film is at its best when it delves into these notions, effectively narrating Priscilla’s journey to regain control of her life and her narrative.

Bold Choices and a Critical Gaze

“Priscilla” takes bold risks that set it apart from the run-of-the-mill biopic. As mentioned earlier, Coppola does not paint a rosy picture of Elvis. After all, he is not a character deserving of unwavering admiration, a notable issue with Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis.” For a substantial part of the film, “Priscilla” unravels an unstable relationship built on shaky foundations. The film’s status as a biopic raises questions about the veneration and idealization of public figures, often glossing over the intricacies of their personal lives in favor of celebrating their work.

As the film spends substantial time exploring the pitfalls of their relationship, it can become repetitive. A recurring cycle unfolds throughout the movie – Elvis loses his temper with Priscilla, apologizes moments later, and everything returns to normal. This repetition serves to complicate their relationship with each iteration, but it also makes the film seem somewhat directionless, diverting attention from potential character development that could have led to more impactful conclusions.

A Watchable Yet Flawed Film

“Priscilla” remains an engaging watch. Its narrative is compelling, its performances are outstanding, and the pacing is swift. However, in its effort to steer clear of the common biopic pitfall of divulging too much information about a subject’s life, the film encounters the opposite issue. Priscilla’s character remains somewhat enigmatic, as we primarily observe her life through the lens of her interactions with Elvis. These limitations do not hinder the film from being effective, but they do impact its thematic depth and resonance.


In conclusion, Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” presents a unique take on the life and relationship of Priscilla and Elvis Presley. It deviates from the traditional musician biopic formula by offering a more nuanced perspective. The film explores the complexities of their relationship, the sacrifice of Priscilla’s coming of age, and the critical examination of a legendary figure. While not without its repetitive moments, “Priscilla” remains an engaging and thought-provoking cinematic experience, earning a deserved place in the realm of unconventional biographical storytelling.

Sofia Coppola’s film about the relationship between teenage Priscilla Presley and Elvis, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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