A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Elvis & Nixon is a fictionalized take on what the real-life 1970 meeting between Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon might have been like. Characters carry guns, and guns are shown in several scenes; Elvis shoots a television set with one. Strong language includes multiple uses of "f--k," as well as "s--t," "goddamn," and more. There's also some mild flirting and references to the "fight against drugs." Teens with an idea of who these famous figures were might be interested in seeing what this movie is all about, but mostly it's a novelty aimed more at older viewers.
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What's the story?
In 1970, a photo was taken of Elvis Presley meeting President Richard Nixon, which went on to become the most requested item in the National Archives. This is the (heavily fictionalized) story of what might have happened at that meeting. The most popular entertainer in the world, Elvis (Michael Shannon), decides he wants to serve his country by becoming at agent-at-large for the Narcotics Bureau. He sends a letter to Nixon (Kevin Spacey) requesting a meeting. After the manipulations of Elvis' pals (Alex Pettyfer and Johnny Knoxville) and Nixon's aides (Colin Hanks and Evan Peters), Nixon reluctantly agrees. Oddly, even though Nixon has no use for rock-n-rollers, it turns out that he and Elvis have quite a bit in common. And an unbelievable meeting becomes slightly more believable.
Is it any good?
Though it's not much more than a novelty, this weird bit of history largely succeeds thanks to a gentle blend of humor and respect and an earnest attempt to understand what made these titans tick. Though they're certainly both great actors, neither Spacey nor Shannon completely transforms into their roles, though they do manage good vocal inflections. Instead, they find a kind of essence for each character, dialing into their potential wants or fears. They wind up commanding the screen as effortlessly as their real-life counterparts might have.
The screenplay, co-written by actor Cary Elwes and former spouses Joey and Hanala Sagal, includes a little padding even to bulk the slight story up to its trim 86 minutes. That mainly involves a subplot involving the character of Jerry Schilling, and unfortunately a bland Pettyfer doesn't add anything to the role. But Hanks adds some humor in his supporting part, and director Liza Johnson adds an overall sense of whimsy and good cheer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how accurate (or inaccurate) Elvis & Nixon is. How could you find out what really happened? Why might filmmakers stray from the hard facts when making a movie based on something that actually happened?
What did you know about Elvis and Nixon before seeing this movie? What did you learn? What does Nixon initially have against Elvis? Have you ever felt that way about people in your life?
Does the movie make fun of Elvis or Nixon in any way? If so, was it mean? Funny? How does it feel to make fun of people? To be made fun of?
Do you consider either main character a role model? Why or why not?
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