One is the king of rock and roll, one is the king of the United States. Who would have thought that these two very different minds of two very different backgrounds would ever be seen in the same photo together? No transcript exists on these events, just a photograph that now has become the most requested photo from the US National Archives. Now here, in Elvis and Nixon, director Liza Johnson gives her interpretation of these events.
It opens with the president receiving notification that the King has planned a visit, then this rather funny scene transitions immediately into a fun opening credits sequence full of 70’s pop art against historical photographs of the two figures. From here, you learn some engaging facts that encourage further research, which sadly is supported by little excitement and little drama.
This historical documentation surveys an entirely separate side of Elvis from what the millennials may know about him. Did you know that he had a deputy’s badge from Memphis? I sure didn’t. It also turns out that he went to meet Nixon so that he could become a Federal Agent At Large. Being America’s most famous icon of the time, he decided to take advantage of his image by proposing possible anti-drug initiatives to the White House. The politicians all found it absurd to let someone like Elvis Presley meet the president, but since he won the heart of all voters in the South, the meeting gets the approval seal.
Revolutionary Road’s Michael Shannon plays the King of Rock, and he talks as smooth, calm and collected as you’d think Elvis would be away from a crowd. Unfortunately, he’s not quite the right fit for the role. It’s not that he’s bad, he just doesn’t put enough soul into the part.
It’s otherwise intriguing to see what details are used to illustrate Mr. Presley. He still has all his little quirks that you expect from the King: he orders a maple bar from a donut shop, he calls the Beatles anti-American, and he says “thank you, thank you very much” right before sending people off with “sayonara.” He watches three different television screens simultaneously and carries an assortment of diamond-studded pistols. There’s more: he also had a twin brother who was born thirty-five minutes before him, only to die minutes later, and it makes him question how things would have gone if he was born first. It’s stimulating and almost inspiring to see this unknown side of an Elvis who actually cared about the American image and took the initiative for his beliefs.
However, this fascinating approach is supported by a rather clumsy first half. Elvis and Nixon was intended to generate laughter, but the laughs are far and few in-between, with dull scenes that either go nowhere or are composed of odd pauses between sentences.
In fact, Elvis’s interaction with Nixon should have started right from the get-go without an hour-long setup, because that is where the real fun begins. These moments express some beautifully uncomfortable humor between a celebrity and the president, made all the better by the naturally flowing chemistry between Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey. I will admit, Spacey probably wasn’t the right fit for the part: his mouth looks just like Nixon’s but not his eyes. But that’s more a bash on the casting director than the actor himself. Spacey still talks just as raspy as Mr. Nixon, and it’s easy to tell that he took the character as seriously as if on House of Cards.
This is not the most spectacular piece of work you will ever see, you may not even remember it a week after seeing it, but it still gives a thought-provoking perspective on the influence that our celebrities have on our politics. If you aren’t dying to see Elvis and Nixon a second or even a first time, you can still bear in mind how our American icons influence far more than what we listen to in our spare time; the actions they take define what makes America the great nation we see it as.
Elvis and Nixon proves how much power the media and celebrities really have over the entirety of American living, including its political structure; it’s now reached the point where these icons are essentially worshipped like gods.
For anyone on the autism spectrum, their respect toward celebrities can go one of either ways: they could treat them like a personal obsession, or they simply could not care less.
In my own case, I was one of those who never had much of any care for the lives of celebrities. While my mother and sister were all over certain actors or actresses and keeping track of who was married or divorced to whom, I cared more about what parts they placed in which movies than about their lives outside of their on-screen characters.
It went back to my lack of interest of people in general, I did not care too much about learning about another’s sincere interests or what they were doing in life. If anything was on my mind it was the next movie that I wanted to see in theaters.
It has changed over time though, I now care deeply about the interests of others and their latest accomplishments, and I do have somewhat of an interest in following the lives of famous people, but it’s still not my number one priority. Part of that reason is because it can be a bit forced for me to keep up with all the modern trends and hot discussion topics.
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #54: Having “Fun” Can Require Maximum Effort.
This is not to say that I encourage involvement with all the fads and trends going on, as in most circumstances they die as quickly as they started. But for many on the autism spectrum who are looking for a way to join in on something that others their age are doing, it causes some discomfort. For me, while others found drinking, video games, and go-karting to be a good time, I just found them all disorienting. It can certainly be a good thing, but it also causes major inconveniences in forming relationships.
Now back to the other example I listed above, where anyone on the spectrum can have an obsession over celebrities, it could mean literally anybody. A little girl with ASD may know an uncommon number of facts about Lady Gaga, or a grown man with Asperger’s could have nothing but Beatles’ songs on his iPhone. If there is a famous person with a nationwide following, I guarantee that they are also obsession-material for somebody on the autism spectrum.
It is unpredictable in how somebody with autism can react to famous celebrities, but if you asked me what I think about how anyone on the spectrum, and people in general should treat celebrities, it’s essential to remember that they are regular human beings like you and me.
Brad Pitt is not just an ideal female fantasy come true, he is also a father, an ex-husband, and a regular guy with thoughts, dreams, fears, and insecurities. Miley Cyrus is not just a hot mess of a former Disney Channel star, she is a daughter, a sister, and a broken spirit who utilizes music to express her feelings. Donald Trump is not just the president of the United States, he is also a father, grandfather, husband, businessman, and newcomer with a tremendous responsibility. Imagine if Dwayne Johnson was never famous? Would people still call him the “sexiest man alive?”
I imagine a world where people on the autism spectrum develop healthy interests that have purpose, and understand that celebrities are human beings with the same needs as our closest friend.
- Don’t feel bad if you, whether autistic or not, have no desire to keep up with what’s happening to our pop culture icons. In fact, I discourage you from doing so. It just wastes time and you have more important things in your personal life to think about.
- To help one with ASD with forming healthier relationships, look for the right types of activities that everyone can agree is a good time. While my father and sister both love football, my mom and I both enjoy zoos and museums.
- If you are already obsessed with following the life of a certain celebrity, maybe it’s time to rethink what you are doing: How have you imitated what you learn about this celebrity? What do you get out of it that makes you keep coming back to his/her story? How has it affected your relationships?
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Sharf, Zack. Watch: Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey are 'Elvis & Nixon' in Inexplicably Bizarre Trailer. Digital image. Indiewire, 8 Jan 2016. Web. <http://www.indiewire.com/article/watch-michael-shannon-and-kevin-spacey-are-elvis-nixon-in-inexplicably-bizarre-trailer-20160108>.
Elvis & Nixon. Bleecker Street. Web. <http://www.bleeckerstreetmedia.com/elvisandnixon>.
Zhang, Michael. This Picture of Elvis and Nixon is the Most Requested Photo from the US National Archives. PetaPixel. Flo, 8 Jan 2015. Web. <http://petapixel.com/2015/01/08/photo-elvis-nixon-requested-photo-us-national-archives/>.