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Priscilla, starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi
Trailer: A24

Directed by Sofia Coppola
Rated R
Married 3 November 2023

The performances drive a compelling look at the bright power of music and the dark power of influence in Priscilla.

I Will Always Love You

Priscilla movie poster

It had to happen to someone somehow.

And so it was 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu who met 24-year-old Elvis Aron Presley in Germany. So many precursor improbabilities had to happen to make that improbable moment happen. And pop culture history would be forever altered because of it.

There should be no confusion about director Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla. This is not a traditional “Elvis Presley movie.” This is based on Priscilla’s memoir, Elvis and Me, and the 78-year-old Priscilla also serves as an executive producer. Top billing goes to Cailee Spaeny, who delivers an incredible performance as Priscilla. Elvis is most certainly a central character and Jacob Elordi nails Presley’s voice if not his appearance, but this is about their life outside the spotlight. Priscilla plays in stark contrast to the razmataz of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis as it eschews every bit of the glitz and the glamor.

Priscilla follows Elvis’ career from 1959 to the early 1970s; the highlights are captured in the newspaper headlines and the glossy, breathless magazine articles capturing Elvis’ Hollywood romances with glamorous movie co-stars in full color and with gossipy headlines screaming of “soul mates” and “love at first sight.” On the TV is his legendary comeback special and the Las Vegas residency is captured with merely a flash of a blinding spotlight. The Colonel is behind the scenes, but his presence is still felt.

This is a relationship drama. Don’t go expecting to tap the feet to Elvis’ greatest hits. Even the music – which features great songs from a range of great artists, including Dolly Parton and Tommy James & the Shondells – steers clear of his famous catalog. While that approach actually works well – a creative device to further detach the people from the product – it’s surprising to learn it was a move of “forced creativity” since Coppola’s movie production was denied permission to use Elvis’ music.

Crimson and Clover

Priscilla was bounced around the U.S. and then over to Germany as a little girl in a military family. The beginning of Priscilla and Elvis’ love affair can best be described as creepy. It all started at a party; a release from Priscilla’s childhood boredom and isolation. Elvis was still reeling from the loss of his mother. Both Elvis and Priscilla were feeling a little lonely that night.

But was it sincere, innocent attraction or cold, calculated manipulation on Elvis’ part?

That’s the question Priscilla Presley and Sofia Coppola dance around. The result is a graceful production that leaves both the relationship and the movie experience as a whole open to interpretation.

Even Elvis refers to Priscilla as “just a baby” when the 9th-grader first meets the rocker. But there were those days of young love and excitement. The yearning of two hearts beating as one. But, as their relationship evolves and Elvis’ fame and fortune grow then falter, Priscilla returns to a trapped state of boredom and isolation.

Elvis most certainly had a knack for image making and it wasn’t necessarily 100% dependent on the machinations of the Colonel. But the image-making and the stagecraft were for public consumption. From Priscilla’s point of view, that image vanished on the home front.

At home, Elvis could be domineering. Dictating what Priscilla should wear; no print dresses, stick with blue. Dye her hair black, wear more mascara. But he also became detached. He was a walking, talking double-standard. Flirting with girls and seducing them at a Bible study, in front of his wife. His philosophical phase – during which he struggled to find the best way to put his influence to good use – was countered by an ill temper.

He was a man who went to the ol’ standby: pills to help speed him up and pills to help slow him down.

It’s a cocktail that never works well in the long run.


Spaeny’s performance is remarkable; the 25-year-old actress convincingly transitions from 14-year-old to mid-20’s Priscilla. This is a non-traditional coming of age story about a girl who finds her emancipation under the most unlikely of circumstances.

As Elvis cuts her off from friends and family, he pleads for her understanding. It’s either him or her career, he says; he needs her to be available when he calls. No part-time jobs and, while he gave her a dog as a present, she’s not to play with the dog in the front yard of Graceland. It draws unwanted attention.

But Elvis’ powers of manipulation – through Priscilla’s lens – had a far-reaching impact. He could even manipulate her parents into letting her fly from Frankfurt to Memphis for a vacation at Graceland. Granted, the young teen flew first-class at Elvis’ expense, but still. Quite a trip under quite the magical circumstances.

Take Priscilla as an artful character study. It’s an unvarnished look at the price of fame and fortune. It’s the kind of movie wherein it’s important to observe both what is said and what is not said. The visuals convey a host of information. And it’s also a movie that deftly captures the times. There are Kodachrome family moments of poolside fun. And there’s the sweetly off-kilter innocence of Priscilla scurrying to put on false eyelashes before being rushed to the hospital to give birth to Lisa Marie.

And therein is an extra layer of pathos. Lisa Marie passed away in January, leaving behind her grieving mother, Priscilla.

• Originally published at

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