In every way, perspective is critical, and Sofia Coppola‘s Priscilla is a glowing triumph in showcasing a female point of view in a male-dominated world set against the backdrop of quiet confinement. As the film’s title boldly notes, this isn’t Elvis Presley’s story. And even while he is the main character in context, Coppola ensures to showcase the complexities of a young girl’s life and desires through tasteful honesty and consideration.
Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla is a stark contrast to last year’s Baz Luhrmann hit, Elvis, and rightfully so. There shouldn’t even be comparisons between the two, but it’s impossible not to draw them when they showcase the differences in a point of view. In Elvis, we watch it all through the king of rock and roll’s life, but in Priscilla, our hearts break with every move the young girl makes through uncomfortable realities clashing with glitz and glamour. With this, the film shines because of its exceptional cast, featuring an enamoring and chilling performance from Cailee Spaeny as the titular character.
The film traverses through a few years, showing the audience Priscilla Beaulieu’s growth from age fourteen to the very moment she leaves Elvis Presley in their gaudy Graceland home. Based on the novel by Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me, the film chronicles the trying relationship through a delicately compassionate lens. The film isn’t painting anyone as a hero or a villain, but instead, it’s diving deep into the perils of adolescence and the heartaches of fame. Neither Elvis’ bouts of abuse nor negligence are disregarded, but his softness is aptly bare, too, by virtue of how Priscilla sees him. In the hands of another director, save for maybe Greta Gerwig, the film wouldn’t be as masterful as it is.
Further, if there’s one thing Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla excels at, it’s in the ability to exhibit the fragility of desires through a painstakingly innocent perspective. She does the same in her previous epic, Marie Antoinette. It certainly helps to have a star as captivating as Spaeny, whose gradual progression in subtly showing changes from an innocent teen to a fully grown mother is nothing short of brilliant. In truth, the same can also be said for Jacob Elordi, who’s understandably given less screen time but still utilizes every moment he’s present to show what’s necessary while allowing Priscilla’s story to shine.
From the moment the film opens up with viewers watching Priscilla walking on the carpet to her face in the car as our final sight of her embodies said growth beautifully. It isn’t the idea of a teen growing into a mother, but it’s the detail of a woman finding her footing, her voice, and her agency. With this, Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla understands the gravity of granting a woman her rights, even while she’s stuck in an enormous mansion with very little to say or do. Through astounding performances and uncomfortably intimate cinematography, we watch the perils of choices come to life, change, and fumble. Priscilla chose Elvis, and he chose her, too, but it’s amidst the softness and the rage that we understand the weight of those choices and why they weren’t exactly suited for an endgame.
Priscilla isn’t a love story, but it isn’t a memoir either—it’s something else entirely, seated at an uncluttered middle ground where it allows its characters to breathe and suffocate until they find the places where they want to go. It’s about making choices and then walking back on them. It’s about growth and understanding. And it’s a wonderfully astute exhibition of the fact that the perspective of a story matters tremendously in allowing outside parties to understand the natures and intentions of human beings.
Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla is now playing exclusively in theaters.