Elvis’ life was defined by his relationship with his mother. Historians have noted that she was always the most important woman in his life. Although Elvis had many romantic relationships with different women, he remained loyal to Gladys. Nailing the depiction of Gladys is one of the most important things that any “Elvis” biopic must do. Thankfully, Helen Thomas delivers a fantastic performance. While some scenes in “Elvis” feel very melodramatic, all of the moments between Butler and Thomas feel completely sincere.
“Elvis” is a very long movie. At 159 minutes, the film could easily have become dull. Viewers are probably more interested in seeing Elvis performing on stage and not as invested in the slower moments during his childhood. However, the opening act of “Elvis” is effective because of how strong Thomas’ performance is. She does a great job at showing where Elvis came from. He was raised in poverty and learned that hard work was the only way to improve his circumstances. Elvis’ drive to keep pushing himself stems from the lessons that his mother taught him.
Elvis’ parents are sidelined towards the end of the film. Luhrmann chooses to focus on Elvis’ relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. While Vernon isn’t given as much to do in the later scenes, Gladys remains just as important.