Austin Butler, Elvis (The Movie) and ‘Suspicious Minds’

In the early days of this blog there were a fair few Elvis Presley posts – in fact there is a category on my sidebar dedicated to him (link here) – but it’s not been added to for a long time, perhaps because everything I had to say about him has already been said. Until now.

It nearly didn’t happen, as the friend I was supposed to go and see the new Baz Luhrmann film Elvis with last week was struck down with covid. Last night was the last time it was showing at our local arts centre however, and she was still testing positive, so I persuaded Mr WIAA (he’s not a fan of Elvis so it was tough going), to come with me. Elvis was one of my first musical heroes so it was unthinkable that I might miss out on seeing this film on the big screen.

As it turned out we had a really sociable evening even before heading into the cinema. The deal struck was that I would drive, and Mr WIAA would enjoy a large glass of red wine in the bar ahead of the film starting. Once there, we both met old work colleagues and in Mr WIAA’s case, old friends from as far back as school days, one of whom is now DD’s boss. They were very complimentary about her abilities which is always nice to hear as a parent and of course a lot of catching up to be done. Ahead of the film starting we said our farewells, only of course to find ourselves sitting next to each other once inside. Typical.

But back to the film, I thought it was pretty fabulous actually. There is always a worry that the actor playing such an important role will not be believable, but Austin Butler was blisteringly perfect for it. Such a beautiful man too, just as the young Elvis was a beautiful, beautiful man. I use that word deliberately. I recently shared extracts from Caitlin Moran’s essay on what it takes to achieve the massive success bands like the Beatles found so quickly, and yes, it involves girls. Both the Beatles and Elvis, Frank Sinatra before them, and all those boys since have experienced the following:

They know there is a power they will never attain until they have stood in the white-noise of a theatre of devotion and seen the girls down the front collapse in ecstatic tears. (CM)

To experience that devotion you have to love girls, be on the side of girls, dress in dandy clothes like a girl, and most important of all, look beautiful like a girl. I was transfixed by Austin Butler’s cupid’s bow lips. For the duration of the film he had me convinced he was Elvis.

Sigh… those high cheekbones and the cupid’s bow lips

The storyline very much reflected the relationship between Elvis and his long time manager ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker. Tom Hanks, with his prosthetically enhanced nose and chin, did a fine job of playing the Colonel and acted as narrator throughout. I think most of us know the story by now of how the former carnival huckster wormed his way into his boy’s life and took total control, but watching the film it is understandable how the young Elvis and his parents were convinced he was the right man for the job. Every now and again it looked as if Elvis was going to stand up to him and make the break, only to be thwarted by some convincing talk from the Colonel that he knew best. Fortunately Elvis did stand his ground when it came to the ’68 Comeback Special, which was a triumph after his years of making lacklustre films in Hollywood. I still have the DVD of that show and unbelievably still have something to play it on, so will be seeking it out this weekend.

Throughout the film there were some incredible performances of many of the songs we associate with Elvis. I think Austin did some of the singing on the early ones but got a lot of help from the original recordings for the later years. All an absolute joy to watch however and I know I had a big smile on my face right the way through (also my right leg just wouldn’t stay still, shaking at breakneck speed in time to the music). Many of his songs have been shared around here before, but not this one. Most of us who were fans of Elvis prefer to forget about the latter years of his life (just too sad), but on the back of the ’68 Special, the Colonel arranged a six-week residency for him at the new International Hotel in Last Vegas. Elvis was fired up for it, was slim, dressed in a comfortable white jumpsuit and gave us some electrifying performances, especially this one which goes down in history I think as one of the most remarkable ever to have taken place. Elvis didn’t just sing songs, he became the song, and although not mathematically possible, he gave us 110%, every single time. (Gets really energetic in this clip from 2:45 onward.)

Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley:


Suspicious Minds was a No. 1 hit for Elvis on the Billboard Chart and reached the No. 2 position in the UK in November 1969. It kickstarted things for him again and he followed it up with many other hit singles and albums. Although the song is about a dysfunctional relationship, during the film you couldn’t help but think the first lines of the lyric reflected Elvis’s life at the time. The Colonel effectively trapped him in Las Vegas, the residencies lasting for years as opposed to the six weeks originally planned. Elvis had wanted to tour the world, something he had never done before, but because of a deal struck on a napkin with the hotel owner early on, he couldn’t walk out.


So, ‘What’s It All About? – I would thoroughly recommend the film to everyone, even those who have never been Elvis fans. Ever since the success of the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, many more have been made about other artists, of differing quality, so it’s all becoming a bit boring now. I deliberately chose not to use that term for the Baz Luhrmann film however as it’s more about the journey these two men went on together, sadly culminating in a tragic ending for Elvis. Being a Baz movie, it is also of course lavishly colourful and opulent, so a feast for the eyes too.

I am always fascinated by novels where there is a dual narrative, of paths taken or not taken, and how they can either lead to a totally different outcome for the character or arrive at the same destination via another route. There is no doubt that had the Colonel not taken Elvis under his wing in those early days, he would still have become a big star. He had the looks, the voice, the moves and the stage charisma. To become such a big star at such a young age does not always bode well however for the artist, especially back in those days, so had the Colonel not insisted on the Hollywood route for his boy, things might still have gone awry. He was from a poor southern family, ill-equipped to deal with his sudden success and wealth, and was also a good-looking ‘dandy’ who loved that he was adored by women. An intoxicating mix for a young man. We will of course never know how it could have turned out, but he certainly has left an enduring legacy as the ‘King of Rock and Roll’.

Until next time… RIP Elvis Aaron Presley.

Suspicious Minds Lyrics
(Song by Mark James)

We’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby

Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?

We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious minds

So, if an old friend I know
Stops by to say hello
Would I still see suspicion in your eyes?

Here we go again
Asking where I’ve been
You can’t see these tears are real
I’m crying
(Yes, I’m crying)

We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious minds

Oh let our love survive
I’ll dry the tears from your eyes
Let’s don’t let a good thing die
When honey, you know I’ve never lied to you

Mmm yeah, yeah

We’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby

Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?

Oh, don’t you know
I’m caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby

Oh, don’t you know
I’m caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby

Oh, don’t you know
I’m caught in a trap