Priscilla is the newest film from Sofia Coppola, adapted from Priscilla Presley’s 1985 book Elvis and Me which premiered at the 80th Venice Film Festival. The film follows Priscilla from her early teenage years where her path first crosses with the world-famous singer, spanning their relationship until their divorce in the early 70s.
Playing the titular role is Cailee Spaeny, giving a confident and endearing performance that immediately draws the audience in. Coppola is confident in her lead’s abilities, letting the camera linger on her face for long silent pauses, as Spaeny breaks the audience’s heart with her naivety and later blind loyalty.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to mention Priscilla without thinking of Baz Luhrmann’s Oscar-nominated Elvis from 2022. It might seem to many that a second biopic on Elvis in as many years is unnecessary, but this is firmly Priscilla’s story, and whilst Elvis plays a crucial role (portrayed by Jacob Elordi here), the film instead feels like the perfect compliment to last year’s film. Playing out almost as a b-side to Luhrmann’s work, we get a more intimate look at Elvis’ personal world, whilst getting to see the immense impact it had on those closest to him.
Coppola, who wrote and directed the film, brings her usual brand of chic contemporary storytelling. With a colour palette of soft pastels, the film looks delicious. The set design and framing carefully switch between a safe and inviting home for Priscilla, which slowly reveals itself to be a hollow, isolating cage.
Coppola’s direction is as confident as ever. Though there are no big set pieces or tricks, the pacing and editing (from Sarah Flack) are far more sophisticated than the stripped-back aesthetic it might first seem. Frames with perfect symmetry, holding on specific set design choices, and shot choices that feel almost tactile such as Priscilla padding through the lush carpets in Graceland all add to the delicate and engaging tale Coppola has weaved.
Like most of Coppola’s filmography, the soundtrack which has been carefully curated by Phoenix is an integral part of the film. There were concerns regarding the music when it was reported that they had been denied access to Elvis’ back catalogue, but each song has been carefully chosen, adding to and building on to the plot. Coppola has become known for her needle drops over the years, and the final song to close out Priscilla is no different.
An engaging, sensitive and powerful biopic, Priscilla is one to get on your watchlist before it releases in the UK at Christmas.
Where to Watch
Ex film teacher and frequent couch potato. I try and see at least one new release a week, but I’ve somehow got to 30 without having seen The Godfather?