Review: Elvis & Nixon, B
Rated R, 86 minutes
The new dramedy "Elvis & Nixon" is an entertaining, charming look at the meeting between two iconic, larger-than-life figures. Directed by Liza Johnson, it's a loose, based-on-fact retelling of their meeting, and while it's not revelatory in terms of shedding any new light on the characters or in terms of filmmaking, it's engagingly performed. In December 1970, rock 'n' roll icon Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) travels to the White House to request a meeting with President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey). Written by Cary Elwes, Joey Sagal and Hanala Sagal, "Elvis & Nixon" is a fun time, thanks to the magnetic yet measured performances from Oscar-winner Spacey as Nixon and the terrific, ubiquitous Shannon. That's saying something, given this pair's legendary status and the fact there have been many indelible portrayals of them in the past, and on that note "Elvis & Nixon" could've easily been exploitative and shticky, but it actually is a fascinating tale of two very different performers - Nixon on the political stage, and Elvis on the musical stage. Spacey and Shannon are both terrific, capturing the men's essence in turns that are more than just mere impersonations; as well, the washed out '70's look and costumes add some nice texture to the movie. The script doesn't delve much into either character or the weighty matters that either faced, just the ridiculous notion that Elvis had an obsession with being a federal agent. The resulting movie is very play-like as it unfolds, with Elvis dominating the first act, Nixon the second and then their final, brief meeting, which is admittedly the best part, though it's only minutes long and comes near the end. Still, it's worth sitting through, and the pair are ably supported by Alex Pettyfer and Johnny Knoxville as a couple in Elvis's enourtage who accompanied him on the trip, and as some of Nixon's staff, Colin Hanks, Evan Peters and Tate Donovan (who's a memorably controlling Haldeman). The enjoyable "Elvis & Nixon" is not a substantial movie and borders on the shallow, but then with two figures like this, you don't need much. For a more comedic take on the event, check out the 1997 TV movie "Elvis and Nixon."