What ‘Elvis’ Means to Me

As a young kid, I remember sitting in my dad’s car, and he would turn on the radio and stop on songs. Sometimes they would suck, and sometimes I would love them. If you have an older dad, you know the rules. He had control of the radio because it was his car. Who knew that decades later I would use that joke on my daughter. But every time he would turn on specific artists, that would make my eyes perk up. One of the artists that stuck with me was Elvis Presley. Of course, when I liked a song or artist my dad liked, he didn’t mind blasting that for me.

A song that stuck with me throughout my childhood until today was “Suspicious Minds.” Now mind you, young Ricky had no clue what the song’s true meaning was and I laugh about that to this day, but something about that hook and the lyrics would always have me jamming.

Elvis Presley was important to me as a kid because he connected me to my father. Like any father and son relationship, it was filled with highs and lows, but whenever I heard Elvis come on the radio, it brought me back to my childhood. So when it was announced that they were making a movie about Elvis, I was nervous because not many biopics give the artists justice. That said, I had faith in Baz Lurhmann, a director and a visionary that creates art like no other.

Regardless of my love for Baz, I was still going to be skeptical of the movie because of how much my heart would be invested in the film. I remember sitting in the theater to watch the movie, and I was pretty emotional. It was time to be immersed in the world of Baz Lurhmann and Elvis Presley.

Let me start by saying yes, Elvis has a problematic aspect of his career that goes unscathed, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. From the opening montage to the closing moments of this film, I was hooked and never looked back. I was blown away by every aspect of this movie. From the incredible work by Catherine Martin with the costumes to Mandy Walker’s cinematography and Redmond and Villa’s editing, but most of all, Austin Butler’s performance.

Sure it’s cheesy, but a literal star was born in front of our eyes as we watched Butler transform into the icon himself. There were several moments when Butler appeared on the screen, and you almost did a double-take because he looked exactly like Elvis. I knew on Oscar morning that he would get nominated, but when I heard his name, I paused for a moment because it reminded me of my love for film, and, more importantly, my love for my dad.

Baz Lurhmann handled this story gracefully because, as you’ve witnessed since the film was released, a brand new generation of fans of Elvis has arrived. Unfortunately, you’ve had several biopics over the years that don’t depict the artists in a way that can show the newer generation of people what they meant to their timeframe. Lurhmann knew the weight of Elvis’s impact and used that to spark another generation of love and appreciation.

I’ve spoken about this with so many people and written about it, but when “Suspicious Minds” hit, the kid in me lost it. You can see within the side-by-side of Butler and Elvis singing “Suspicious Minds,” whether its the smile on his face or the way he drops to that knee on that stage or how Baz built it back up to see him finish the song, the comparison is uncanny. But that moment brought me back to the good times of my childhood that always seem clouded by the bad. It was me and my dad in the car cruising down the road jamming to the King, and I’ll forever cherish Baz and Butler for reigniting that in my head. I love you, Dad.

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