Elvis & Nixon is a film that tells the story of a meeting on 21st December 1970 between Elvis Presley (played by Michael Shannon) and the president at the time Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey).
We follow Elvis and two of his friends including Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) and some of Nixon’s staff as they seek to get the meeting set up after Elvis shows up at the White House with a letter asking to be made a federal agent. And that’s the thing this is really a film of two halves. The first half is where we see the meeting being arranged, and the second gives us the meeting actually taking place. Whilst the meeting part of the film is incredibly fun, enjoyable, and full of laughs. However the first half is more of a mixed bag. It drags a little at times, and I found Jerry Schilling’s story to be very uncompelling.
Obviously this film is really based around the two major central performances. And I have to say that both Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon are both absolutely fantastic. Every scene where Spacey is on screen as Nixon is great. He absolutely nails the portrayal of ‘Tricky Dicky’ and brings such a powerful screen presence. Michael Shannon’s portrayal of Elvis is less of a direct impersonation, but is equally as good for different reasons. He capture the bizarre personality of Elvis, but also plays him with a sadness and struggle with his public persona and who he is as a person.
Those two are fantastic, but it’s more of a mixed bag from the supporting cast. I thought Alex Pettyfer’s performance as Schilling was pretty one not, he tries to play more of a brooding character, but Pettyfer’s slightly wooden performance coupled with the uninspired storyline, makes him one of the weakest elements of the film. Colin Hanks as one of Nixon’s staff Egil Krogh is great, and often brought a good humour to scenes. Director Liza Johnson deserves a lot of credit for managing to bring a lot of fun to the meeting between him and Nixon and a good pace to the film that doesn’t leave you bored.
Elvis & Nixon is an enjoyable enough film carried by two real heavyweight performances. It’s short run time coupled with some very amusing moments makes it one that is worthwhile watching, even if it is a little forgettable in the long run.