Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley are caricatures of history. What we remember is the corrupt scandal that forced Nixon’s resignation in the mid-70’s. We also remember the iconic mannerisms and the very much immortalized “Thank you, thank you very much” that helped make Elvis Presley “the King” for legions of followers, young and old.
Elvis & Nixon is a simple story. One egomaniac wants to meet another egomaniac. They egotistically wrangle over the ownership of a bowl of m’ms, and they navigate the protocol for bringing a gold plated collectible World War II gun into the oval office.
The last 30 minutes of the movie is an elaborate dance between two icons. What resulted was a famous photo- a clash of two massive demographics, and an effort to make one bristled leader of the free world more appealing to young people. As if Nixon cared. He only wanted a signature for his 22-year old college student.
Elvis & Nixon is shockingly well-acted by two titans. The underappreciated Michael Shannon turns an aging Presley into something more than a caricature. He is the true heart of the film. His peptalk prior to the inevitable meeting is the most daring moment of the film. Kevin Spacey is, for better or worse, a more straightforward and self-serious interpretation of Nixon. He could have been a hologram of the man himself.
Elvis & Nixon is a heartwarming tug on the sleeve. But, it also asks us to remember that these two icons were actual people. It reminds us that Elvis Presley, for all the jams and all the crazy bombasticity, was a largely broken man, turned into a cartoon by the fans that made him “lucky enough for two people.”
Welcome to the Corazon team, Ryan Merkel. He is a writer who loves to watch movies. Naturally, this makes him a critic.