"Elvis & Nixon"
Release Date: April 22, 2016
Running Time: 86 minutes
The speculative comedy Elvis & Nixon features probably the least convincing portrayals of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tricky Dick committed on screen. That doesn’t mean Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey are terrible as Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, respectively, in this stranger-than-fiction account of the events that led to the 1970 Oval Office meeting between the two icons. Heck, it’s doubtful anyone could portray Nixon worse than John Cusack did in Lee Daniel’s The Butler. But neither Shannon or Spacey convince us from the get-go that they are who they are supposed to be in director Liza Johnson’s flashback to one of the most memorable collisions of politics and pop culture. They don’t look, sound or carry themselves like the men they are tasked with portraying. Shannon, though, brings a wistfulness and sincerity to Elvis that proves winning. We’re with him all the way to the White House, even if the plan he wants to pitch to Nixon to unite a divided nation seems dubious at best, ludicrous at worst. He wants to be a “Federal Agent at Large” for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs so he can go undercover and bust drug dealers and political activists such as the Black Panthers. Right on, Elvis. Spacey, on the other hand, plays Nixon as Frank Underwood playing Nixon during a White House Correspondents’ Dinner skit. Put Shannon and Spacey together in the same room—in this case, the Oval office—and magic happens. The unusual dynamism, created by the amusing back and forth between the dominant Presley and the mystified Nixon, results in a compelling meeting of two very different minds with some common interests. Elvis & Nixon is only fascinated with this moment and not what came after—it’s doubtful Elvis wanted nothing more than to add to his collection of law enforcement badges and Nixon probably just thought his photo op with Elvis would be of political benefit. Getting to this meeting, though, is a bit of a slog. It starts with Elvis at home in Memphis in his Graceland mansion deciding he wants to meet Nixon, then moves to Beverly Hills so he can recruit friend and assistant Jerry Schilling (Magic Mike’s Alex Pettyfer) to help him get through the White House gates. It ends in Washington, D.C., where he’s met with dropped jaws by civilians and bureaucrats alike. We see Elvis’ campaign to meet Nixon through Schilling’s eyes. He’s depicted as a member of Elvis’ inner circle who does not have a hidden agenda. He just wants to make Elvis happy. Unfortunately, Schilling is such a straight arrow that he’s no fun when he’s around—and the same applies to Elvis & Nixon. It also doesn’t help that Nixon makes only fleeting appearances until his meeting with Nixon. So we’re left waiting and waiting until the fateful encounter in the Oval Office. But at least it’s worth the wait to watch Elvis taking care of business with Nixon.
Aired: April 21, 2016
Web site: http://www.bleeckerstreetmedia.com/elvisandnixon