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Sofia Coppola reveals harsh reality of Presleys in ‘Priscilla’

Sofia+Coppola+reveals+harsh+reality+of+Presleys+in+Priscilla
Collegian | Madelyn Hendricks

Sofia Coppola’s newest flick, starring Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley and Jacob Elordi as Elvis Presley, eloquently retells Priscilla’s 1985 memoir, “Elvis and Me,” in a way that is as jarring as it is beautiful.

Coppola is known for her painfully realistic portrayals of femininity in a man’s world. Often telling a larger story through vignettes, she possesses a unique ability to craft an experience that mirrors the reality of girlhood within society without coming right out and saying it.

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Coppola has gained notoriety with the younger generation on social media through the aesthetic framing of her pictures and her grungy-yet-lovely portraits of the darker side of womanhood; one popular TikTok audio says, “When a girl’s room is messy, it’s Sofia Coppola.”

Similarly, a pile of going-out shoes by the front door is Sofia Coppola, having just a lip gloss and a lighter in your pocket is Sofia Coppola, crying on the bathroom floor is Sofia Coppola. Celebrating your femininity in its most dynamic and imperfect forms is Sofia Coppola. And “Priscilla,” above all else, is solidly Sofia Coppola.  

This film, however, causes the viewer to realize that everything about her — the black bouffant hair, the winged eyeliner, down to the colors and fabric she wore — was handpicked and crafted by Elvis to look the best with his persona.”

Something that stands out about this film is the careful way the story is crafted; the red flags of the relationship start off inconspicuously and pile on top of each other until you can’t ignore them anymore, much like the reality of the situation. Famously, Priscilla Beaulieu met rockstar Elvis when she was 14 years old and he was 24 years old, much to her parents’ chagrin.

Although they weren’t married until Priscilla was 21, they began living together at Graceland when she was 17. The film illustrates the intimate details of her life with the rockstar until she left him in 1972, and it’s a love story with its honeymoon phase and its agonizing decline as she loses herself to him.

At the beginning of the film, Elvis becomes attached to Priscilla — who is 15 years old at the time — and causes her to believe that she is the only person he can rely on even though he’s 10 years her senior. The manipulation and gaslighting eventually escalate into domestic abuse and affairs. 

As Priscilla gets deeper into the glitzy world of Elvis, the situations she experiences cause her to fall deeper and deeper down a rabbit hole. In one standout scene, Priscilla is in labor with their daughter Lisa Marie, applying her false lashes with a level-headed demeanor while chaos ensues off-screen as the others prepare for her trip to the hospital.

Viewers learn earlier in the film that Elvis has tailored Priscilla’s look to match the striking coolness of his own, and it comes out throughout the film that he would not allow her to look any other way. Prior to this, she is reprimanded for the patterns and colors of her dresses, even as she’s about to give birth.

Priscilla’s aesthetic is held up as one of the most iconic looks of the late ’60s, with prolific artists like Lana Del Rey molding their looks off of hers. This film, however, causes the viewer to realize that everything about her — the black bouffant hair, the winged eyeliner, down to the colors and fabric she wore — was handpicked and crafted by Elvis to look the best with his persona. 

You’ll have to see it yourself to pick up on the parallels, nuance and lightbulb moments that Coppola has yet again expertly injected into a story that needed to be told to the generation that didn’t experience it in real time. Spaeny won Best Actress at the 2023 Venice Film Festival for her role as Priscilla.

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Reach Hailee Stegall at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @stegallbagel.

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