by Rob DiCristino
Priscilla Bealieu first met Elvis Presley on September 13th, 1959, after being invited to a party at his home in Bad Nauheim, West Germany. Presley had rented the house for the duration of his two-year tour of military service and was eager to entertain new American friends like Priscilla. She reminded him of the States, he confessed over the din of the party, and her company would be a source of solace as he nursed both his homesickness and the memory of his recently-departed mother, Gladys. Priscilla was excited to meet the twenty-four-year-old heartthrob, of course; he was music’s biggest star, one shining even brighter in light of his selfless decision to serve his country in uniform. She found herself quickly seduced by his boyish charm and intrigued by some fleeting whiffs of a deeper emotional vulnerability. She resolved to spend as much time with Presley as possible, but when his tour ended and he returned to the States — and his legions of adoring fans — Priscilla was forced to stay with her family. After all, she was only fourteen years old.
Played with delicate intensity by Cailee Spaeny, Priscilla Presley is an ideal addition to the stable of penned-up princesses Sofia Coppola has been cultivating since The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. Priscilla begins as a wide-eyed idealist, a lonely girl who believes that the love of a boy can give her the purpose, value, and agency she so sorely desires. Priscilla is strongest in these early stretches, its elliptical structure underlining just how little everything else mattered to the lovestruck beauty in those first few months. Played by Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi — a lanky hunk who towers over his diminutive co-star — Elvis has an inarticulate, good ol’ boy affect that begins sheepish and polite but gradually degrades into duplicitous and manipulative as he falls further and further from grace. Elvis comes off all the worse because Coppola keeps our attention squarely on her titular character — she works from Mrs. Presley’s 1985 memoir, Elvis and Me — rarely deviating from her point of view. Trapping us in it, in fact, almost as if sentencing us to sleep in the bed she’s made.
Priscilla hits theaters on Friday, November 3rd.