Kyle Says THE KING Is A Well Made Documentary That Tries To Juggle Too Much.

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FILM REVIEW: THE KING

BY KYLE ARANGO

Elvis Presley is one of the most iconic names in the history of entertainment of all time. His name transcended music and film and became household that has lasted generations. Many people know him for his famous attire or songs, but not many knew who he was as a person. Could the documentary The King be a faithful documentary about the man known as Elvis Presley that honors him while also showing the darker side of him? The answer is unfortunately a no. While this is a good documentary, it is not necessarily about just Elvis Presley. As a result, its main point can get confusing and it unfortunately weighs down the documentary from being great.

I was born in the year 1997, so I am rather young according to most people’s standards. Elvis Presley was always just a name to me. I knew what he did,but I never knew anything more about him. My knowledge was rather surface level and besides naming a few songs from the movie Lilo and Stich, I couldn’t tell you a thing about the man. I always knew he was a great performer who died from a drug overdose. I was hoping that The King could provide me more information on this historic figure. It did exactly that,but not to the point that I was hoping. This is not a straightforward documentary about the rise and fall of Elvis. Instead, the filmmaker Eugene Jarecki has another point he wants to make. His goal throughout the documentary is to parallel Elvis Presley’s life with America today in its current political climate. This is a risky idea as many people love Elvis and want a to hear about his life. This was a choice that I feel hurt the documentary but not the way you may think.

Eugene Jarecki clearly had something he wanted to express in the documentary The King. While it is clear he is someone who has a fascination with Elvis, he also feels the need to comment about today’s society. As a result, we get what feels like two separate stories in one film that never quite gel together as well as you would have hoped. On one side we see a biography of the life of Elvis and how he went through many ups and downs. His career was manipulated, and he felt like a product of a system he was not aware of until late in his life. On the other hand, we have what is going on in politics today and how we now have a president who has the country divided. Jarecki clearly feels as if Elvis’s life mirrors what America is going through right now. While I respect his attempt at making a connection between the two stories, it never feels natural to me. There are long stretches of time where Elvis is not even mentioned. There are two solid documentaries in here about two separate things, but it results in one messy documentary.

Something I truly loved about The King was it was not just a puff piece about Elvis Presley. Yes, there are many people who love Elvis Presley, but there are also many who absolutely hate the man. They are not afraid to show all sides of his popularity and this is something I did not expect. We see how a large portion of the African American community are not a fan of Elvis. He is viewed as having stolen the music of African Americans and becoming successful off of it. At the time, an African American singer/songwriter could not become as famous as a white man. They were held to different standards and today, it still has an impact on Elvis’s legacy in the eyes of the African American community. There are also many great comparisons drawn here that I never thought of. Elvis was always known as “The King” but did everyone ever wonder what that truly meant? Kings are not thought highly in anything and even mundane and random places like Burger King are not held in high regard, yet they still have the title of king. It is pointed out that Bruce Springsteen has the title “The Boss” but aren’t people not fond of their bosses usually. I found this point fascinating. Just because you are referred to as a king does not mean you are beloved. Elvis Presley’s life reflected that and still does today.

The King,to wrap it all up is a well-made but messy documentary that tries to juggle too much. It tells two separate stories merged into one that does not come together well. While both stories are engaging, the focus would have been great had the filmmaker just stuck to one point. In a year with great documentaries like Won’t You be my Neighbor? and Three Identical Strangers, The King feels like it may fall by the wayside come the end of the year. Regardless, if you have any interest in Elvis Presley, I would recommend checking out The King.

 

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