Michael Bergeron
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Elvis & Nixon

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Interestingly the movie Elvis & Nixon is as much about Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon as it is about Jerry Schilling. Elvis & Nixon revolves around the, at the time secretive, meeting between the titular characters that occurred in December of 1970.

Leon casino, Schilling was a member of the Memphis Mafia and it’s through his eyes that we see much of the narrative of E&N. Elvis relies on Schilling to get things done. A subplot has Schilling trying to be his own man, arrange the logistics of the White House sit down, and then hightail it to Los Angeles to ask his girlfriend’s parents permission to marry their daughter.lists-7-famous-photographs-Elvis-nixon-E

Michael Shannon plays Elvis, and Kevin Spacey plays Nixon. Alex Pettyfer plays Schilling, with other supporting turns from Johnny Knoxville, Colin Hanks and Tracy Letts. This is a movie about sideburns and hairstyles. Every hair on Elvis’ muttonchops are perfect.

Despite the fact that Shannon and Spacey look nothing like their film counterparts, Elvis & Nixon projects a solid good vibe. Both historical personas are out of their comfort zone. Nixon was trying to get a photo with Elvis to please one of his daughters while Elvis was trying to get a badge to be a Federal Agent at Large. Nixon’s legacy would be the scandal of Watergate and Elvis would die from prescription drugs less than seven years later.

Kevin Spacey stars as Richard Nixon (left) and Michael Shannon stars as Elvis Presley (right) in Liza Johnson’s ELVIS & NIXON, an Amazon Studios / Bleecker Street release.

Kevin Spacey stars as Richard Nixon (left) and Michael Shannon stars as Elvis Presley (right) in Liza Johnson’s ELVIS & NIXON, an Amazon Studios / Bleecker Street release.

Both Shannon and Spacey inhabit their parts with facial expressions and body gestures that recall the actual people they are portraying. Perhaps that is what separates a true masterful actor from an imitator.

On a side note, the only time I ever got hate mail when I was at Public News back in the 1990s was when I wrote that Elvis was the king because he died on the throne. Don’t mess with Elvis. His fan are, now as they were then, legion.

— Michael Bergeron