The Intimacy of Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla

By Haley Hart 

December 20, 2023

“I lived somebody else's life. It was never about me, it was really about him on every level” 

-Priscilla Presley

On June 27th, 2022, I saw “Elvis” directed by Baz Luhrmann. I was immediately hesitant to see it, only because biopics have never quite been my thing. They typically leave out major events and the actors are always much too attractive to be playing the person they are supposed to be, but over all, it’s just uncreative. 

I saw the movie with my grandma, a lifelong Elvis fanatic, so I already knew I was going to be seeing it with someone who would be far more into it than I was about to be. I remember sitting down in my movie theater seat thinking I was about to waste the next two hours of my life watching some ex-disney channel star parade about with a stupid accent and a bad wig. But then, the strangest thing happened, I…loved it. 

I mean it was bright and colorful and Austin Butler was definitely not bad to look at. I loved it so much that I saw it 3 more times the following month. That is 12 precious hours of my life that I will never get back, 16 hours if you include the times I watched it on HBO, and 20 if you count the times I watched it on Blu Ray. 

But, on November 10th, 2023, I saw “Priscilla” directed by Sofia Coppola, and regret filled me like you could not believe. 

I knew going into the film that any love for Elvis or the image of Elvis would probably no longer exist within me. I’ve watched enough Sofia Coppola movies to know that the female lead almost always gets horribly wronged by her male counterpart, so I was fully prepared to come out of the movie theater having the hate on Elvis, however the film was much more nuanced than I anticipated. 

The movie is based on Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir, Elvis and Me, and opens with 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, played by Cailee Spaeny, sitting in at a diner drinking a milkshake. Her hair is done up in a high ponytail and she is wearing a baby pink sweater. Immediately, I felt like I knew her, or had known her, or even like I could have been her. 

Cailee Spaeny as Pricilla Presley (Photo credit:

Priscilla is then approached by a man in military uniform claiming he knows Elvis Presley, followed by him proposing the idea of inviting Priscilla to one of his parties, to which Pricilla accepts, much to the dismay of her parents. While she is at the party, Elvis, played by Jacob Elordi, approaches Priscilla and utterly towers over her. He’s animated, she’s soft spoken, and after a bit of talking he invites her up to his room where he kisses her. It certainly feels romantic until you remember the 10 year age gap. It’s wildly uncomfortable, but then again, most of the movie is. 

The rest of the film follows Priscilla as she moves to Memphis during her teen years, marries Elvis straight out of highschool, has their baby, Lisa-Marie, and finally at the end, leaves Elvis. The whole time I was watching, I felt such devastation. Nothing incredibly dramatic really happens, but I actually think that’s what made me so sad. The movie captured the feeling of loneliness so well. The loneliness of Priscilla as a teenager pacing the halls of Graceland without so much as a single friend, her emptiness as she waited for Elvis to finish wrapping up movies in California, the betrayal she experienced discovering there were other women. It all felt so raw.

The color palette for the film is cold and muted. The soundtrack is unmemorable only because it didn’t feel like the movie even had one. Most scenes had no background music at all, which added to my discomfort. It was quiet. So quiet that every scene where Priscilla and Elvis were alone, I felt as if I was the third person in the room. It was that intimate, that vulnerable. When watching Elvis (2022), it was never like that. I most definitely felt like a member of the audience. It was sparky and over the top, like a show was being put on just for me. Watching Pricilla (2023) felt as if I was intruding in someone’s life. I thought the movie did an amazing job encapsulating how young Priscilla truly was while experiencing such adult things. Her naivete and innocence was captured so well.

I would encourage most people I know to see it, though I don’t think the film would be everyone’s thing. It’s not at all fast paced and there is very little dialogue, which I personally loved. The silence of the movie added to the realness, but it also added to my unease. If you want lighthearted, watch Elvis , but if you want truthful, watch Pricilla (2023).