It goes without saying that Elvis and Nixon is a fun cinematic take on an event that most anyone with a working knowledge of pop culture events of the twentieth century is most assuredly aware. Of course I’m referring to that historic moment in December 1970 when the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ decided that he wanted to become a drug enforcement officer and made it his mission to meet with Richard Nixon in the hopes of attaining that goal. Never mind the irony that The King would later prove to be a walking advertisement for the pharmaceutical business due to the large amount of quantities of prescription drugs that the entertainer ingested on a regular basis. When it came to dissuading others from drug use perhaps Elvis was thinking along the lines of ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ but it’s something I guess we’ll never really know for certain.
Even though Richard Nixon is now world renowned for his taping system in the oval office, his historic meeting with Elvis Presley took place in the days before all of that.
Nixon’s raging paranoia would, of course, eventually lead him into trouble with his decision to constantly record the comings and goings in the White House but no tape exists of the meeting Nixon had with Elvis. The result is that the actual get together between the two men is simply speculation, a fact that the filmmakers attack head on at the beginning in a title card. When one takes into account how much fun the film is it’s amazing to think of what might really have transpired.
The film’s early section focuses more on Elvis (in a wonderfully goofy portrayal by Michael Shannon) than it does Nixon (Kevin Spacey, proving to also be a great choice in that role), although Nixon gets ample screen time during the final section. Elvis is presented as a man who’s basically bored with life and looking for the next kick, leading to his fascination with becoming a drug agent. Nixon can’t stand the idea of having Presley in the White House but when his staff remind him that his daughter might appreciate the gesture he reconsiders. In the interim, the film illuminates all of Elvis’ eccentricities such as his penchant for guns and for shooting out television screens when he became bored, just to name a few.
Jerry Schilling, who was Elvis trusted confidante in real life, was the executive producer of this film so I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all of the film is fictional and while it’s obvious that some of the film is actually conjecture it’s so much fun that I hardly cared. My advice would be to see the film for its level of fun and not for the historical accuracy.
Photo: Shannon & Spacey as Elvis & Nixon
Elvis and Nixon is playing playing in Charlotte.
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