Last night at the Writers Guild Theatre, I saw this film about the famous meeting between President Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley, who wanted to be made an undercover Special Federal Agent at Large (really) in order to help fight drugs and those trying to tear down America. It’s lots of fun. And handled very respectfully, when it could have just been an over-the-top shredding. It's very funny, though not the flat-out comedy satire you get the sense of from the marketing. The film largely is told through the perspective of Elvis, played quite well by Michael Shannon, in a generally low-key performance, keeping the inherent flamboyance to a minimum.
Nixon is really more of the supporting part here, But good as Shannon is, it's near impossible not to be riveted by Kevin Spacey who was (not surprisingly) tremendous. He's probably the best “Nixon” I’ve seen. Human, but not to the degree of making him “likable.” Very awkward in a believable way. He’s got the voice and body movements down pat. It's not a caricature, but a rich performance.
Rather than show the trailer (which tries to emphasis how ludicrous it all is), I think the featurette gives a much better sense of the film and has some very good commentary, including by the real Jerry Schilling, the longtime friend of Elvis who accompanies him on the trip (and later went on to briefly manage a young Billy Joel and the Beach Boys).
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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