Priscilla - Photo A24
Priscilla – Photo A24

What would you call a 24 year old pop singer who pursues a 14 year-old girl, a naïve ninth grader who is dazzled by his fame and fortune?

I’d call him a manipulative predator, even if his name was Elvis Presley, but the gullible parents of Priscilla Beaulieu allowed him to groom her to be his ‘living doll,’ a pampered, privileged captive in Graceland’s gilded cage.

In casting “Priscilla,” filmmaker Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation,” “Marie Antoinette”) chose diminutive 5’1” Cailee Spaeny to play the titular role; she’s visibly dwarfed by 6’5” Jacob Elordi as towering Elvis.

Coppola deftly depicts exactly how US Army Pvt. Presley persuaded his superior officer to influence Paul & Ann Beaulieu that they should allow their adolescent daughter to date the lonely King of Rock ‘n’ Roll while he was stationed in West Germany in 1959; Paul Beaulieu was in the US Air Force at the time.

When Elvis returned home, he called Priscilla frequently to reassure her that he was planning to bring her to Memphis to complete her education.  Once enrolled in a local Catholic school there, she was such a poor student that she is shown cheating on a final exam in order to graduate from high school.

Admitting her delusional romantic fantasy in her memoir “Elvis and Me” (1985), Priscilla poignantly notes: “You lived his life. You saw the movies he wanted you to see. You listened to the music he wanted to listen to. You’d go to places that he would go…I honestly didn’t have my own life…so I really kind of lost myself.”

Although Priscilla and Elvis slept in the same bed – where he plied her with ‘uppers’ and sleeping pills – she insists that they did not have sex until they were married on May 1, 1967, when she was 21. 

(Lisa-Marie Presley was conceived shortly afterwards; she died earlier this year from a small bowel obstruction caused by adhesions from weight-loss surgery.)

Filmed for $20 million in 30 days in Toronto, the film hints that moody, controlling Elvis may have been sexually dysfunctional with a Madonna complex, although rumors were rampant that he had affairs with Ann-Margret, Nancy Sinatra, Connie Stevens, Rita Moreno and Linda Thompson – among others.

Significantly, the Presley estate refused Coppola permission to use his music and – unlike Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” (2022) – Presley’s influential mentor/manager, Col. Tom Parker, never appears but Elvis obviously listens to his counsel.

After the Venice Film Festival premiere,  Priscilla Presley (now 78-years-old) acknowledged, “Sofia did an amazing job. She did her homework.”

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Priscilla” is a bleak, depressing 5, playing in theaters.

Red, White and Royal Blue - Photo Amazon Studios
Red, White and Royal Blue – Photo Amazon Studios

Romantic comedies are always popular – yet, in recent years, they’ve been hard to find. Now, “Red, White and Royal Blue” gives a charming contemporary twist to the classic ‘flirty meet-cute, quarrel and happily-ever-after’ formula.

This time, the traditional ‘special diplomatic relationship’ between England and America is challenged when Alex Clarmont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), son of U.S. President Ellen Clarmont (Uma Thurman) and Texas Congressman Oscar Diaz (Clifton Collins Jr.), is dispatched to escort Nora (Rachel Hilson), the U.S. Vice-President’s granddaughter, to the Prince of Wales’ (Thomas Flynn) wedding in London.

What particularly irks ambitious Alex is the attitude of pompous superiority assumed by the groom’s younger brother, Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine). Inevitably- and predictably – they get into a scandalous scuffle at the nuptial reception, causing a very embarrassing confectionery incident, a photo-op that’s dubbed Cakegate.

So America’s political heir and England’s ‘spare’ must find a way to settle their differences. As it turns out, Alex is bisexual and Henry is gay, although neither of their famous families is aware of this. Not surprisingly, their romantic relationship romp leads to the kind of palatial tryst that the public is often not privy to.

Adapting Casey McQuiston’s 2019 best-seller, writer / director Matthew Lopez – sharing screenwriting credit with Ted Malawer – tackles the LGBTQ+ issue with cheeky sensitivity and light-hearted amusement, despite the film’s R rating.

And within the antagonistic jests, there’s something meaningful and touching about this wish-fulfillment fantasy: “I hope this film helps anybody who is struggling with figuring out who they are,” Nicholas Galitzine told People magazine.

FYI: Novelist Casey McQuinton does a cameo as a speechwriter typing on a laptop in the scene where President Ellen Claremont is preparing her election-night remarks with her assistant Zahra Blankston (Sarah Shahi). And, ironically, the homophobic King is played by the openly gay actor Stephen Fry.

On the Granger Gauge, “Red, White and Royal Blue” is a snappy slapstick yet sweetly sappy 7, streaming on Prime Video.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.