The King

Eugene Jarecki takes to the road in Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls Royce in The King.  The documentary’s narrative itself is like Jarecki’s luggage – crammed-full and seeping out of the zippers.  However, this stuffed film is interesting in ways thought-provoking open discussions can be.

Part of The King chronicles Presley’s life and career as a rising musician, an icon, and his unfortunate older years.  While discussed before at length, Eugene Jarecki puts a new spin on the biographical retelling by inviting famous fans of Presley’s to add their own knowledge and appreciation of the musician, while also allowing current musicians to share their own opinions and talk about how Elvis influenced soul music as well as their own musical craft.  These interviews are usually recorded from inside the Rolls Royce, giving this documentary a consistently casual pace even though sometimes it resembles a long episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

The other half of the film consists of these aficionados applying Elvis’ legacy to define and elaborate on “the American dream”.  With the help of other esteemed outsiders, Eugene Jarecki develops some intriguing theories and ideas he illustrates with amateur video and news footage reflecting the current condition of the United States of America.

The King gradually broadens its scope to encapsulate more themes, but this dimishes the doc’s impact; especially when Jarecki becomes less particular of which celebrities he interviews for the project.  However, even though the filmmaking becomes more general, The King still offers audiences a new way to look at a legend and an all-American way of life.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Guillermo F. Perez-Argüello July 22, 2018 @ 4:51 pm

    You have nailed it. In my humble opinion, there can NOT be a metaphor between the United States, which WANTED and CONTINUES TO WANT to change, then rule the world and Elvis Presley who never did WANT to do either. It just happened in his case. LOL. In fact, robably one of the few people who really understood him was Stephen Barnard. In his book “Popular Music, Volume I: Folk or Popular?”, a publication director Jarecky should have read before trying to make any metaphor about Presley, he describes him as follows. And I quote ‘He never understood the artistic claims that were made for him, probably thought very little of the nature of his appeal or his music; yet, as author Greil Marcus points out in ‘Mystery Train’, it is possible to see (all that) as a positive factor; Presley viewed his music as for the body, not the mind, so he recorded and performed accordingly; and, if much of his music sounds superficial, it was thanks to his undoubted vocal talent and extraordinary charisma that, at least, it was all gloriously superficial and celebratory; he knew better than to take it seriously and, in doing so, he become the consummate music figure, one that defines its spirit by delighting in its very limitations. Unquote Too bad the documentary leaves out the non surprising fact that it was not just that Presley never took himself that seriously, but that the new title of the documentary, “The King” (and this is just one example), as witnessed in 1974 by some 17,000 concert goers at the University of Notre Dame Athletic Center, was precisely what he hated the most. So there is simply no metaphor to be found. It takes two to tango…


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