Wednesday, 29 June 2016

REVIEW - ELVIS & NIXON (LIZA JOHNSON)


I hope you weren't expecting highbrow political commentary... Elvis & Nixon is a fantastical little comedy, fuelled by gentle caricature. Like its two protagonists, it holds scant connection to the real world, as Liza Johnson's quirkier tendencies maintain a detachment between their fantasy and our reality, and as its lightweight lightheartedness allows for negligible resonance in the long run. Such a disposable product is best consumed with a vigorous appetite, before it is, indeed, disposed of, so relish Elvis & Nixon's vibrant performances, its smart dialogue, its carefree spirit, before you forget they even existed. No great work of art, nor great piece of entertainment, it's likely to be forgotten fairly soon. The innate pleasure in imagining this factual yet fictionalized encounter between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon is integral to one's enjoyment of the film - it's celeb-snooping, as crass and as dubious as any gossip rag, and it must be attended to properly if one is to tolerate its absurdities. You're meant to notice the actors in this most recognizable of ensembles, you're meant to register every gauche period detail, it's all part of the chintzy, charmingly ersatz design of this non-biopic. And there's value to be found in such a seemingly valueless enterprise, most notably in Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey's superb renditions of the titular characters, exploiting their idiosyncrasies solely for the benefit of this most singular joint portrayal. Any sense of realism is rather lost beneath the low-key looniness, but that's much the point. Elvis & Nixon holds the political commentary, and lets loose - very loose - everything else.