It’s the meeting of the century. Two of the most famous men on the planet come together for a secretive meet and greet.
It’s December 1970 and Elvis Presely (Michael Shannon) is troubled by the state of the country. He wants to offer his own unique help to the President of the United States Richard M. Nixon (Kevin Spacey) to fight the drug wars that are corrupting our nations youth. Plus, he wants to get a really cool Federal badge from the President too!
So The King shows up at the White House to request a meeting with President Nixon. What follows is a humorous dramatization of what would become a unique meeting and an event that will be immortalized in the most requested photograph in the National Archives – the day when Nixon met Elvis.
I never really understood that title – ‘ the most requested photo from the National Archives’. I don’t know how that works. I would assume that means folks ask them for a print of the photo for publication or for private use.
Like, they probably got the majority of requests for this photo back when it was the only place to obtain a good copy of it. But today with the internet I would think it’s much easier to get ahold of any photo you want that you needn’t go to the National Archives for it. And do they actually keep a list of the most requested photos they get?
Anyway, Elvis & Nixon is a satirical look at that private meeting between Elvis and Nixon. We’re introduced to Shannon’s Elvis who’s on a very odd mission to obtain that Federal badge from the President. Could that badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Drugs be categorized as the most requested and/or sought after badge ever? It’s gotta hold some kind of title if Elvis wanted it so bad.
Elvis travels on his own to California, meets with his longtime friend Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) tells him of his sudden plan of going to DC and to get a meeting with the President. Arriving in DC Elvis hand delivers a letter at the gates of the White House and so begins his mission of stepping foot into the Oval Office. Fortunately Nixon’s aides Egil Keogh (Colin Hanks) and Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters) think this is a great idea. They just have to convince Nixon to meet with the rock and roller, something he’s a bit reluctant to do.
The first half of the film has its slow points. It never gets fully grueling, but at times I wanted the movie to speed things up. Most of the humor comes from seeing the shocked looks on people’s faces as Elvis unexpectedly walks into a room, orders some doughnuts, shows up at the White House.
Shannon doesn’t look much like Elvis, but he made me forget about that pretty fast. He doesn’t do a caricature impression of Elvis, but carries the overall cool, slow moving, soft spoken vibe about him. He’s more a subtle relaxed interpretation of Elvis than the flamboyant imitators he encounters at one point, which kind of works for this surreal story. The actors didn’t need to oversell this absurd story with big showy performances.
Spacey is equally good as Nixon. Nope he doesn’t look like the real Tricky Dick, but he nails some vital mannerisms and is entertaining to watch when the two men meet. Not surprisingly it’s when Elvis steps foot into the White House that is the high point of the movie. After the buildup to it it should deliver! Luckily there’s some amusing high points between the two.
I can’t say it’s a riot and I can’t call it a great film. It didn’t make me laugh as much as I hoped, but it gave me some chuckles and I liked watching Shannon and Spacey. It’s an amusing 90 minutes. I wouldn’t go into watching this for any historical accuracy, but from what I know about the real story it balances that fine line of being a believable yet bizarre tale without getting too exaggerated.
There was 1997 Made-For-TV movie about the big Elvis and Nixon meeting called Elvis Meets Nixon. I’ve never seen it, but from what I read that movie is a much broader comedy. It sounds like it’s much more cartoonish than how Elvis & Nixon handles things.
I wonder if either Nixon or Elvis ever anticipated at the time that one photograph of them together would become one of the most famous they would pose for.
Here’s the trailer for Elvis & Nixon
Here’s the 1997 movie Elvis Meets Nixon if you’re curious
It’s interesting to see how each movie recreates that photo getting taken