ELVIS & NIXON — Review by Susan Granger

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Chronicling an amusing historical anecdote, Liza Johnson’s droll reminiscence shows how Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) met President Richard M. Nixon (Kevin Spacey) in the Oval Office one afternoon. In late 1970, watching the news at Graceland, Presley becomes so infuriated with the growing drug problem and moral decline in the United States that he shoots out the TV set with a .45. That’s his first reaction. Read on…

His second is to become an undercover federal agent. But – for that – he’ll need a badge from J. Edgar Hoover’s Bureau of Narcotics. And the only way to get one is from the President of the United States.

So it falls it Presley’s long-time confidante, Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer), along with Memphis crony Sonny West (Johnny Knoxville), to deliver a rambling, hand-written letter to the White House and convince Nixon aides Egil “Bud” Krough (Colin Hanks) and Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters) to arrange an appointment.

Oblivious to Presley’s influence, Nixon has absolutely no interest in meeting the pop singer – until his daughter Julie begs for an autographed photo. Once the two meet, protocol is discarded as the King and POTUS chat informally – with Presley gulping the President’s Dr. Pepper and munching his M&Ms.

Michael Shannon digs beneath the ridiculous glitz and swagger to reveal Presley as seriously delusional, yet down-to-earth Southerner who firmly believes he can secretly infiltrate disruptive groups, like the Black Panthers, and bring them to justice.

In contrast, Kevin Spacey embodies hunched-over Nixon’s chronic insecurity and social ineptitude with remarkable mimicry, never succumbing to caricature.

Inventively fictionalized by screenwriters Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal and Cary Elwes, it’s astutely directed by Liza Johnson as a “Dr. Strangelove’ish” two-hander, focusing on the quirks and foibles of these two iconic figures.

FYI: the most requested photo in the National Archive is the one of Presley and Nixon shaking hands at the conclusion of their Oval Office meeting on December 21, 1970.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Elvis & Nixon” is a surreal 7, revealing a bizarre moment at the summit.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.