Arts & Events

Priscilla – Coppola’s Delicate Exposure of Fame and Relationships

Elordi and Spaeny in Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla. Credit:

By: Frannie Edwards-Hughes 

  How does it feel to be chosen? What exists in a relationship beyond what the media portrays? What are the consequences of giving yourself fully to another person? All of these questions are explored through director Sofia Coppola’s depiction of Priscilla Presley and Elvis Presley’s life together. “Priscilla” (2023), starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, displays a central theme similar to other films by Coppola, granting insight into the complexly beautiful and devastating life of a teenage girl. 

  This film is based on the memoir “Elvis and Me” written by Priscilla, which tells the story of their relationship. Priscilla was just 14 when she met then 24-year-old Elvis after being invited to a party at his home. Elvis immediately shows interest in Priscilla, confiding in her and showing emotional vulnerability to try to gain her trust. Priscilla’s innocence is robbed as she adapts to a life with Elvis and falls deeper into his world. Elvis isolates Pricilla, taking away her childhood and interaction with the outside world for his own benefit. 

  Coppola’s films are known for their emphasis on set, rather than excessive dialogue, which I find very refreshing. There is a sense of realness shown through the necessary silences and subtle emotions presented. Since the dialogue is limited, the actors in “Priscilla” have to master showing emotion through facial expressions. Spaeny, who plays Priscilla, is constantly saying something while not saying anything at all. She grows up and adapts to Elvis’s influence in front of the audience’s eyes. She works relentlessly to become the woman her husband and the world want her to be – because of love – but in the pursuit of this lifestyle, she loses sense of herself. 

  Priscilla’s realization that she has to leave her relationship and find out who she is without Elvis is an essential piece to the story that I wish we could have marinated in longer. Due to Coppola’s fragmented style of filming, it felt like the actors’ emotions were not drawn out enough to show the fragility of the moment. 

  Spaeny does a phenomenal job depicting Priscilla’s rapid growth, but the film could have placed more emphasis on her individual life before and after her relationship with Elvis. The entire movie is based around the idea of Priscilla’s loss of individuality and innocence in order to be Elvis’ wife, and yet it lacks an emphasis on her independence when she is not tied to him. However, I think Coppola’s focus on the relationship allows the audience to understand just how demanding and dark Priscilla’s life really was. 

  “Priscilla” turns the idea of fame into a devastating image of isolation and loss of innocence. Coppola captures this idea through the lens of a coming-of-age film, highlighting pieces of Priscilla’s life and her fight with self-discovery to show just how damaging and effortful this relationship was. This film unveils the well-known and misrepresented relationship as it draws on precise details to show the reality of a life of fame. Coppola utilizes Spaeny and Elordi’s talent in non-verbal expression to create an image of the co-dependent relationship they had, and how the desire for social status and love lead to loneliness and a need for liberation. I think that all coming-of-age film lovers, like myself, should take the time to watch Coppola’s depiction of Priscilla’s complicated relationship and journey for self-realization.