When the first trailer for Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla dropped, Lainey wondered if Sofia would “interrogate” the age difference between Elvis Presley, a 24-year-old man serving a stint in the US Army, and Priscilla Beaulieu, the 14-year-old girl he, er, romanced in Germany and beyond. Based on the trailer that was released yesterday, YES, the age difference is like, the MAIN thing. (Is this the year of the age gap discourse?)
The new trailer puts heavy emphasis on Priscilla’s youth, her fresh face, her saddle shoes, her bobbysoxer style—Elvis even asks her what the “kids are listening to”, because she, a fellow kid, would know. There’s Priscilla in a classroom, Priscilla’s dad asking what Elvis wants with his teenaged daughter, Priscilla looking flattered and awed and overwhelmed by Elvis.
And then there’s Priscilla expressing doubt about her new, Elvis-approved makeover, Priscilla looking lonely, angry, determined. Priscilla was 14 when they met and only 28 when they divorced—Sophie Turner let Priscilla be your spiritual guide through your divorce!—which is SO young, but of course, those years encapsulate her growth as a woman, coming into her own, wanting her own life, free of a controlling husband.
Cailee Spaeny won the Volpi Cup for best actress at Venice and is an early tip to compete for Best Actress at the Oscars, too. She looks wonderful in this trailer, and Sofia Coppola certainly has a track record for putting young actresses on the map (though you should really check out Spaeny in Bad Times at the El Royale, she is spectacular as a savage cultist). But Jacob Elordi is also making a strong impression as Elvis, and he could be an outlier in the Best Supporting Actor race (that category is already HUGELY competitive and there are still twelve weeks to go in the year).
What strikes me most about Elvis in this trailer, though, is how often he is cut out of frame. He’s a headless voice, a looming shadow, a background figure as Sofia’s lens stays fixed on Priscilla. That jives not only with the subject of the film—her name is in the title—but with Sofia’s own preoccupation with girls and girlhood and how the world chews up and spits out young women the second they (we) become inconvenient.
Also, can we skip the Austin Butler comparisons? I know it’s inevitable that people will compare the two performances, but Austin was asked to play one of Baz Luhrman’s pretty sadboys, wrecked by money and fame and the poisonous influence of an untrustworthy Svengali. It’s not just that Elvis was a fully sanctioned biopic with the robust endorsement of Elvis’s family and estate, it’s well in Baz’s wheelhouse of glamor contrasted with the corrosive effects of fame and, especially, money, and how the more perfect the façade, the more horrible the truth it hides. Baz’s story is about how an icon is made at the expense of the man and his humanity, and Austin nailed that.
Jacob Elordi is being asked to play, let’s face it, a predator. This is not Elvis-as-puppet, this is Elvis-as-puppet master, remaking Priscilla the way the Colonel remade him. And again, Sofia Coppola crafts the Cinema of Girlhood, her films are explorations of how girls become women in hostile environments, and Priscilla with this lurking, demanding version of Elvis, looks right in line with that. Besides, Cailee Spaeny is front and center, Jacob Elordi doesn’t have to carry this film. This is HER film, Elvis is framed—sometimes literally halfway out of view—in the context of Priscilla’s experience and HER story.
She’s Priscilla, he’s just Elvis.