By Julie Etra
To improve my Spanish and understanding of other Spanish-speaking cultures, I am always in search of good Spanish language films (with English subtitles so hubby can enjoy). El Último Elvis (The Last Elvis), a 2011 Argentinian film written, produced, directed, and edited by Armando Bo, who won an Oscar in 2014 for Best Original Screenplay for Birdman. The Last Elvis was a 2012 Sundance Film Festival selection suggested by linguist Olivia Beauford at The Language Connection in Reno, NV. I watched the trailer on line, and it looked intriguing enough to order the DVD, which, by the way, took a month to arrive, and was not readable on my TV DVD player (watched on computer). And it came with French subtitles. (It can be ordered from Amazon with English subtitles.)
If you are looking for a good Spanish lesson, this may be the wrong movie for you. I find Argentinian Spanish difficult to understand, especially without the English subtitles, but it is a very interesting and tender movie, although a bit depressing. If you are trying to get a sense of Buenos Aires, this movie shows you a decidedly different gray and worn picture of the city, reflecting of course the lives of the characters and the associated celebrity impersonator scene. There are no pretty scenes of what has been called the Paris of South America, rather factories, hospitals and the main character’s dreary apartment, where it seems he eats nothing other than peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
The Last Elvis is the story of Carlos “Elvis” Gutierrez, a 42-year-old divorced singer with an Elvis Presley obsession. He has built his entire life around the borrowed identity. With an incredible performance by real-life Elvis Presley tribute artist John McInerny, the film focuses on the emptiness of his life and his plan to finally do something really big that will make his little girl, not surprisingly named Lisa Marie (as is his beater car), proud of him. Bo had originally hired McInerny, an architect and part-time Elvis crooner, as a coach for his lead actor, but was so impressed he cast McInerny as the lead.
We don’t find out about Carlos’s big plan until the end of the movie. In the meantime, his ex-wife and daughter get in a serious car accident, delaying the plan. But since the accident puts his ex in the hospital, Carlos, now the only parent, and his grade-school daughter develop a closer relationship, even as he struggles to offer her something more lasting than the ubiquitous sandwiches. He quits his assembly line factory job and attempts to embark on a serious career as Elvis, instead of his nighttime gigs and performances at his mom’s senior care facility.
As the plot progresses, if there is such a thing in this movie, his calls to airlines and limo companies, along with his plan to perform the showstopper “Unchained Melody” at an unnamed gig, signal his permanent departure from the assembly line. The scenes start to brighten as Carlos/Elvis leaves run down Buenos Aires and flies to shiny Memphis, and Graceland, for an unpredictable and ambiguous ending.
For an excellent review read: