"Elvis and Nixon" is a movie so slight if it had one less word of dialogue or one less dollar for set design it might totally disappear. The concept is terrific – the backstory behind the famous photograph of Elvis Presley shaking hands with President Richard Nixon. Presley had written Nixon a six-page letter asking for the meeting, and offering himself as a "federal-agent-at-large."
A lot could be done with this premise. Why did the King want to be an agent? How might one of the stiffest and least charismatic men in history – Richard Nixon – be affected by such a close encounter with one of the sexiest, swerviest men in history? What did they say to each other behind closed doors? Why do people who have the world at their feet – like Elvis, like Nixon – crave things that they can't have – FBI agent status? To manipulate elections illegally? What does the meeting say about the dark side of celebrity and power?
The movie goes nowhere with any of these premises. The film is not offensive or exploitative or even especially inept at the technical level. It's just not there. The script is miniscule. You need a microscope to see it. Elvis says something mildly amusing, "I'd like to go undercover" and then the next ten lines are vapid comments about White House protocol or the autographing of photographs – void of any significant content.
Kevin Spacey has a twinkle in his eye that no amount of makeup could disguise. He also conveys a self-aware intelligence and amusement at the human carnival that was very different from Nixon's dark mien. Michael Shannon comes nowhere near capturing Elvis' animal magnetism, but then, who could?
Given how much money and prestige is risked in the making of any film, one has to wonder why this film was even made.
Read about the 1970 film "My Sweet Charlie" starring Patty Duke and Al Freeman Jr in a previous blog post here: http://save-send-delete.blogspot.com/2016/04/my-sweet-charlie-1970-patty-duke-al.html