Despite the title, this is not really the story of the rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon, but a damning look at Mr. Presley’s crooked “discoverer” and manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks, playing against nice-guy type).  It wasn’t the first example of a venal agent exploiting a talented client, and it won’t be the last, but the manipulation and thievery was staggering in scale. 

So don’t expect a rousing jukebox biopic like Rocket Man, Ray or Bohemian Rhapsody. Closer to Todd Haynes’s Velvet Goldmine. The source material is after all not what you’d call uplifting. That said, since the director is old style-over-substance Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge) there is inevitably a certain amount of toe-tapping going on. But at times it seems like it’s more about the director. Also, it’s way too long and doesn’t really know what to say about its subject.

Central to the film and a shoo-in for at least an Oscar nom is Austin Butler in the title role. The kid is not a dead ringer, but he’s got the king’s moves down, especially the early gyrations. (Did you ever wonder why ALL Elvis impersonators base themselves on the later, fat and exhausted singer, and none on the youthful, athletic one?)

Let’s talk a bit about Tom Hanks. Consummate actor that he is, he is as committed here as ever. But he’s so recognizable a presence, even in a fat suit, heavy makeup and a creepy accent I couldn’t place, that this time he fails to disappear into his role, and I couldn’t help but think a lesser-known player may have been more effective. 

The most gut-wrenching scene is the last one, of the real Elvis, barely able to get himself to the piano for his final belting out of Unchained Melody. (156 min)