The Big Picture
- Jonathan Rhys Meyers delivers a passionate and spot-on performance as Elvis, showcasing his commitment to mimicry and capturing the King’s physical appearance, mannerisms, and soft Southern accent.
- Camryn Manheim delivers a praise-worthy portrayal of Gladys Presley, showcasing her motherly affection and delivering emotionally raw moments that add depth to her character.
- Randy Quaid’s understated performance as Elvis’s manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, is brilliant, capturing the complexity of the controversial figure and earning him award nominations. The miniseries, though lacking in cinematic effect, is worth watching for the impressive performances alone.
Elvis Presley‘s rags-to-riches story has always been a source of Hollywood inspiration. Countless books, movies, and TV shows have depicted the extravagant entertainer and the numerous flamboyant fantasies that made him an irresistible character for consumption. Even now, audiences can’t get enough of the larger-than-life singer and his over-the-top lifestyle. The true story of Elvis Presley is more bizarre and outlandish than any fictional rendition. From an impoverished childhood to the “King of Rock and Roll,” this musical icon led a fascinatingly tragic life that has provided endless creative content for insatiable audiences ready for more.
With the 2022 Elvis film, which garnered massive audience approval as well as high praise from the Presley family for Austin Butler‘s exquisite embodiment of Elvis, it’s clear that even now, 46 years after his untimely death, new generations of fans continue to be drawn to his beautifully flawed story of determination and grit. The 2022 film did such a masterful job of telling Elvis’s life story with honesty, heart, and integrity that it is hard to beat this biopic for authenticity and cinematic excellence. However, for Elvis fans who can’t get enough of the charismatic crooner, the 2005 CBS Elvis miniseries you may have missed is undoubtedly worth a watch.
With powerful lead performances and a focus on Elvis’s early life and career, the miniseries has some great moments worthy of praise. In fact, Jonathan Rhys Meyers won the 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Miniseries or Film for his portrayal of Elvis. While there are some flaws, most notably some would-be dramatic moments made almost comical with a poorly matched musical score, and some distracting moments where the lip-sync performance seems a little too forced to mimic “the King,” there is still a lot to like about this earlier biopic.
- Release Date
- May 8, 2005
- Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Rose McGowan, Randy Quaid, Tim Guinee, Antonia Bernath, Jack Noseworthy, Robert Patrick, Camryn Manheim
- Main Genre
Jonathan Rhys Meyers Committed to “The King” in ‘Elvis’
It isn’t easy to embody the gyrating movements and distinctive facial expressions of a music legend as well-loved as Elvis. There is no room for half-measures in portraying “The King of Rock and Roll.” One of the most significant aspects of the Elvis miniseries is the total commitment by Jonathan Rhys Meyers to get it right. Meyers delivers a passionate performance worthy of praise and appreciation. From his physical appearance to his mannerisms, his commitment to mimicry paid off.
From the “King of Rock and Roll” to King Henry VIII of England in The Showtime series The Tudors, Meyers knows how to command a room skillfully with his presence. His intense gaze and mischievous grin add fiery ferocity to his dramatic endeavors. As Elvis, Meyers shines equally in sensitive scenes, such as the death of his Mama Gladys (Camryn Manheim), and in dynamic stage scenes, like his performance on The Milton Berle Show. With Elvis’s well-known closeness to his mother, Meyers showed real connection and chemistry in scenes with Manheim.
One of the other praise-worthy aspects of Meyers’ performance is his spot-on accent. As a native Irishman, Meyers flawlessly and consistently transforms his speech into Elvis’s soft Southern tone. Though many actors from across the pond deliver an American accent without trouble, getting the regionally specific Tennessee accent right is no easy feat. Southern accents are not one and the same. Listen to someone from Texas speak versus someone from Georgia, and it becomes glaringly evident that Southern dialects are incredibly varied. With a faultless performance, it’s clear that Meyers took his elocution studies seriously.
‘Elvis’ Supporting Cast Inhabits Their Characters Perfectly
With a Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominated performance as Gladys Presley, there is no doubt Camryn Manheim delivered a praise-worthy performance. From the opening scene where she gently embraces her son’s face, it is clear that Manheim truly connected to her character and emanated Gladys’ motherly affection in every instance. Her careful and deliberate delivery made the miniseries all the more relatable and endearing. One of the most memorable scenes of Manheim’s brilliance is when she is feeding the chickens in the yard at Graceland. She is drinking a beer and not looking quite like her normal self. Elvis comes up to talk to her, and she explains that with all the riches they have amassed, she misses her simple life and the comfort of friends. Her vulnerability and pain are palpable, and she delivers an emotionally raw moment that grounds the scene in reality and adds depth to her character.
For those unused to seeing Rady Quaid in a dramatic role, his stoic performance is a bit unsettling. This is not the Cousin Eddie of the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise or the UFO-obsessed drunk of Independence Day. In fact, Randy’s brilliance as Elvis’s manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, is actually in his pensive delivery and toned-down performance. With a complex character in the “Colonel,” Quaid had a difficult task in bringing the controversial manager to life. “Colonel” Tom Parker, born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk of the Netherlands, entered the United States illegally as a young man.
In spite of a somewhat shady past and some possible criminal activity, the “Colonel” worked his way from carnival concessions to music promoter and eventually to a well-connected manager. He took Elvis from a local Memphis record label to RCA and international success. Though he is arguably the reason Elvis made it big, he financially entangled himself with the icon so completely that Elvis could never leave him, despite their creative differences and volatile relationship. With such a divisive character, it’s easy to see why Randy Quaid’s understated embodiment of the villainous vulture was rewarded with Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations.
The ‘Elvis’ Miniseries is Worth a Watch
Though the 2005 CBS Elvis miniseries has some cheesy moments and is somewhat lacking in cinematic effect, the performances alone make it worth a watch. With multi-nominated performances and one major Golden Globe Award win for Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the talent is certainly present. Though the flash and dazzle of the latest biopic are missing, fans of Elvis are sure to love Meyers’ dedicated and enthralling performance as “The King of Rock and Roll.“
Elvis is available to stream on Tubi in the U.S.
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