Throughout American history, there have been many odd moments. Stories that are so off the wall, that they simply seem like pure fiction. One such moment occurred at the White House on December 21, 1970 and it revolved around two of the nation’s most popular figures. Elvis & Nixon is the strangely mixed account of a meeting between two figures that one might never expect to meet. It is a fun dramedy that “depicts” the events leading up to and surrounding one of history’s most bizarre encounters. The brilliant Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey portray The King of Rock and Roll and 37th president of the United States respectively and the results aren’t just funny but rather deep and absorbing.
Elvis & Nixon focuses mostly on Presley as he attempts to establish himself as more than just an aging musician and cultural icon. Bored at Graceland, he soon tries to become a “Federal Agent at Large” in order to battle the war on drugs, ironic since he, himself, has consumed quite an amount of narcotics himself. This is neither here nor there in the film as Presley writes a letter to Richard Nixon to be made an undercover agent to help combat this growing epidemic. Eventually, White House staffers Egil Krogh (Colin Hanks) and Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters) arrange a meeting between the two powerful figures and a very special American moment is put into action. Presley’s dear friends and confidantes Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) and Sonny West (Johnny Knoxville) join The King and this just adds to the comedy.
Many of the events in this film have been largely exaggerated and this makes for a rather amusing docudrama. Elvis is depicted as a soft spoken man of peace, who just so happens to carry more than one firearm on his person and has a strong dislike of The Beatles. Michael Shannon rises above hokey Elvis impersonator shtick and makes the “character” of Elvis his own. There is a real intensity Shannon brings to all of his roles, from his Oscar-nominated work in Revolutionary Road to his dark memorable role on Boardwalk Empire. The man is a real treasure and every project he touches turns to gold. Elvis & Nixon is no exception and it is yet another notch in the gifted actor’s belt.
Few words can properly describe Kevin Spacey’s contribution to film and TV history. He has been delighting audiences for over two decades now and his work here as Nixon is just another example of how brilliant of an actor he is. He has fully embodied the infamous politician, from his gruff voice to his puffy jowls. His interaction with Shannon is sublime and one cannot take their eyes off of the screen when either of these two men grace it.
While many elements of Elvis & Nixon are largely exaggerated, it is a cute film that will leave a nice grin on your face well after the end credits roll. We already know many things about Elvis and Nixon separately but this movie brings both icons together in a way that seems like a complete joke. These two figures did meet and this film shines a light on what might have happened in the Oval Office that day and the impact their meeting had on the world.