“Priscilla”: a complex look at the growth towards womanhood 


3.5/5 ***-

“Priscilla” is a 2023 biographical drama directed by Sophia Coppola and is about Priscilla Presley’s complex romantic relationship with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, Elvis Presley. The film was based on Priscilla’s memoir, titled “Elvis and Me,” that she published in 1985. The film starts in 1960 when 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) meets a 24-year-old Elvis (Jacob Elordi) and ends when 28-year-old Priscilla leaves the marriage in 1972. The film is relatively faithful to Priscilla’s experiences with Elvis and considered to be historically accurate. 

The film goes into the two’s complex relationship and reveals some of Elvis’ behavior behind the scenes. Considering his status as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Priscilla being a child at the beginning of the movie, saying there is an unequal power dynamic is an understatement. After Elvis begins taking notice of Priscilla and continuing to invite her back over, she becomes infatuated with him and he consumes her life. Priscilla stops focusing on school, and when her parents express concern with her relationship, she gets defensive and rebellious. Elvis’ influence over her leads to her moving into his home in Graceland, Tenn. to finish her senior year of high school while her parents are still stationed in Germany. 

Priscilla met Elvis when she was 14 and began living with him when she was 17. They got married when she was 22 and she left him when she was 28. Priscilla being with Elvis, a man 10 years older than her, for 14 years heavily impacted not only Priscilla’s development, but also her relationship with herself. Elvis was extremely controlling of Priscilla’s appearance, telling her to dye her hair black and wear dark eye makeup and only certain clothing styles. Elvis also did not let Priscilla work, with the reason that he did not like “careerwomen” and he needed her to be there for him at all times.

Also, whenever Priscilla would confront him about his numerous affairs with his co-stars, he would get angry at her and sometimes demand that she leave. 

Not only does the film go into Elvis and Priscilla’s relationship, but it also shows how Priscilla was forced to act now that she was romantically involved with the King. For example, when she was playing with her dog, Honey, close to the gates of Graceland, Priscilla was accused of “making a spectacle.” Also, because she had to look perfect at all times, Priscilla put on a full face of makeup (including false eyelashes) while she was giving birth. From a young age, Priscilla had been told what to do and how to look by people, mostly men who were older and had more power than her.

Priscilla’s growth and how it compares to Elvis’ is very interesting to see as the film goes on. As Elvis becomes more and more childish, throwing tempers and parties and taking drugs, Priscilla grows up. Throughout the film, she struggles to speak her mind and do her own thing, from being berated into returning a dress that Elvis disapproves of to showing up to Elvis’ set to confront him about his affairs only to go right home when he tells her to. That need to be her own person is struggling to get out, and she soon realizes she needs to get out of her marriage in order to do that. When she finally leaves Elvis, she is back to her natural hair color and is wearing more natural makeup. She is finally her own person again and ready to start her new, independent life.  

Overall, “Priscilla” is a beautiful film that does a great job showing the complex relationship between Priscilla and Elvis. The audience grows to love Priscilla and watches her go from a lovestruck child who was taken advantage of to a grown woman who is ready to start her life anew. The film also shows how complicated of a person Elvis really was, as well as how much of a manchild he was.