Elvis & Nixon Blu-ray Review
On December 21, 1970, White House photographer Ollie Atkins snapped a picture of Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley in the Oval Office. They are shaking hands, Nixon with that sinister smile of his, Presley in a velvet suit and an ornate belt. The image, titled “The President & the King,” stands as the most requested photograph in the National Archives.
It’s a busy day for Nixon, who has meetings scheduled with the likes of Henry Kissinger and global ambassadors. He can’t believe he had to make time for an entertainer. Meanwhile, Elvis is at Graceland, growing frustrated with the news and what’s happening in the world, particularly with the blossoming drug culture. He decides that he deserves a badge to show his support for a more wholesome America. “What kind of man would I be if I didn’t offer to help?” (The irony is strong here.)
The idea of making Presley a federal agent-at-large for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs—a title that officials aren’t even sure exists—is a questionable one. But it’s agreed that such a meeting between Presley (Michael Shannon, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL) and Nixon (Kevin Spacey, Netflix’s HOUSE OF CARDS) would prove beneficial in boosting Nixon’s public image. And so Presley, along with associates Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer, 2014’s ENDLESS LOVE) and Sonny West (Johnny Knoxville, who recently voiced Leonardo in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) arrive at the White House, the King with a Colt .45 as a gift. It was an interesting day indeed.
There is a lot of build-up and background, and the titular icons don’t actually meet until nearly an hour, far too long for a movie with a runtime of just 86 minutes. Still, director Liza Johnson (2013’s HATESHIP, LOVESHIP), working with a screenplay by Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal and Cary Elwes, does a nice job at establishing the significance and utter bizarreness of the meeting, particularly in a time when presidents will appear on late night TV shows.
There is no recorded evidence of what exactly was said that day—Nixon wouldn’t install such devices until the following year, and it certainly wasn’t for the purpose of documenting rock star run-ins—and so much of what occurs here is speculation. But it’s fun once the movie gets where it needs to be.
Even the most casual observer will note that neither actor fully resembles their counterpart. Rather, both men look far too much like themselves in makeup and costumes than they do their counterparts (Shannon in particular is far too lean to play this era of Elvis, although he does a passable “Thank you, thank you very much.”). This really shouldn’t be much of an issue and. with the caliber of acting in and the chemistry between Spacey and Shannon, it’s not.
It’s unfortunate that the moments between Spacey and Shannon make up such a small portion of the movie. And so, with ELVIS & NIXON a mild disappointment, audiences should start requesting more White House-photographs-turned-movies—chiefly GACY & ROSALYN.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are relatively strong and colors are accurate.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English and Spanish. Dialogue is clean, but there is little here that puts the speakers into action.
Commentary with director Liza Johnson and Jerry Schilling: Johnson and Schilling (portrayed by Alex Pettyfer in the movie) offer a strong commentary in which they discuss ELVIS & NIXON and Schilling’s own recollections.
Crazy But True (3:29) offers a brief overview of the events that inspired the movie.