We’re all familiar with the aging musician genre: A singer who’s past his prime but who’s sure that the next gig will be the one that puts him on the map but is suddenly given responsibilities. Will this show him the error of his ways? Thankfully, The Last Elvis gives us something different.
Elvis impersonator Carlos (John McInerny) has always seen his voice as a gift from God, a clear sign of what his path through life should be. Now he’s putting on weight and planning a show that needs to be his best. He’s also found his way back into the life of his daughter Lisa, although his ex Alejandra isn’t too happy about it. But when Alejandra is in a car accident, Carlos must take care of his daughter.
Co-written and directed by Armando Bo (co-writer of Biutiful), The Last Elvis has no interest in creating an emotionally manipulative story. While the plot may sound hackneyed, Bo and co-writer Nicolás Giacobone have created an quietly mesmerising if reluctant lead character in Carlos. Beyond his commitment to giving the best possible show he can, we’re rarely given any insight into what’s going on under the surface. He simply wants to be Elvis, to the point where he calls Alejandra Priscilla, and both his daughter and his car are named Lisa Marie.
But he’s not a cold-hearted man, and certainly not a cruel one. He wants his family to share in this life he’s created for himself. Somehow it’s difficult to see a character like The King of Comedy’s Rupert Pupkin stopping rehearsal halfway through to rush to the hospital. But it’s difficult to read how he reacts to Lisa’s growing affection for him, or if he notices it at all. He explains to her that people who don’t pursue their dreams are unhappy. John McInerny’s performance is very impressive; at times incredibly open and at others totally unreadable.
It’s not an icy film by any means but there’s a definite detachment. Bo makes sure there’s no questioning Carlos’ talent and the Elvis renditions are fantastic, but the sense of fractured reality that comes from a parade of celebrity impersonators (“Iggy Pop” moans that no one asks for him any more, while “Kiss” share eye-liners and hair mousse) seeps into a final act that should provoke discussion, as should the whole film.
The Last Elvis an unusual, oddly engrossing film with a fantastic lead performance that stays with you after it’s over.
The Last Elvis is shown at the East End Film Festival on 08 July.