Welcome to our Colossus Movie Guide for Priscilla. This guide contains our detailed library of content covering key aspects of the movie’s plot, ending, meaning, and more. We encourage your comments to help us create the best possible guide. Thank you!
What is Priscilla about?
Priscilla aims to redefine the traditional celebrity narrative that dominates so many biopics. Priscilla‘s release is all the more fateful, given Elvis—which strictly focuses on Elvis’s life and his relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and largely sidelines his romance with Priscilla—came out the previous year. With her film, director Sofia Coppola chose to tell a story we don’t typically hear in biopics: the people caught in a celebrity’s orbit. Thus, the film becomes a depiction of how Elvis restricted Priscilla and kept her from living her own, as well as a commentary on how we view celebrities and choose to remember their stories. In effect, Priscilla becomes an examination of how media-controlled narratives egregiously leave out those who suffer in the wake of celebrity.
In the case of Priscilla, the movie is all about how Priscilla Presley never got to live her own life. From the day she met her superstar husband at the age of 14, she was effectively coerced into a life of solitude and servitude to a man with an inflated ego. Elvis didn’t treat Priscilla as a wife, but a doll—which, in turn, is how much of society observed her. Priscilla became more of a symbol, of somebody who only existed in proximity to a much more powerful person. But Priscilla was her own person, and was unfairly taken advantage of before she ever got to envision a life for herself. Thus, Priscilla is all about taking back that narrative—from both a character perspective on Priscilla’s part and a thematic perspective for female narratives in film.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Cailee Spaeny – Priscilla Presley
- Jacob Elordi – Elvis Presley
- Ari Cohen – Captain Beaulieu
- Dagmara Domińczyk – Ann Beaulieu
- Tim Post – Vernon Presley
- Lynne Griffin – Grandma “Dodger”
- Dan Beirne – Joe Esposito
- Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll – Alan “Hog Ears”
- Dan Abramovici – Jerry Schillin
- R Austin Ball – Larry Geller
- Olivia Barrett – Alberta
- Sofia Coppola – Writer and director
The ending of Priscilla explained
A quick recap of Priscilla‘s ending
The movie ends with Priscilla visiting Elvis in his room to declare she is leaving him. When he asks why, she says something along the lines of needing to build her own life. She then returns home, hugs everyone goodbye, and leaves the Graceland estate.
Priscilla redefines her narrative
In Priscilla, the concluding scene where Priscilla Presley declares her need to “build my own life” is not just a pivotal moment in the film, but also a powerful statement on the broader theme of redefining the celebrity narrative. For decades, Elvis Presley’s story has been a staple in American pop culture, his life and career extensively documented and analyzed. However, the voices and experiences of those closest to him, particularly Priscilla, have often been overshadowed or lost entirely in his immense shadow.
Priscilla is not about a life being lived, but about a life not being lived. The movie literally begins with Priscilla meeting Elvis and ends when she leaves him—at no point do we see Priscilla outside of Elvis’s orbit. And the film is commenting on this reality. For years, we’ve known Elvis’s story, but not Priscilla’s. We see the story of a man, but never the non-story of a woman. Elvis has been the subject of a number of books and films, but rarely do we acknowledge how Elvis didn’t allow Priscilla to build and live her own life. He was constantly controlling of her and rarely let her leave the Graceland estate.
Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla confronts this imbalance. The film sheds light on a significant, yet largely unexplored perspective: that of the women who lived alongside these towering male figures. In the case of Priscilla’s story, her life was intricately tied to, and in many ways controlled by, Elvis. Her statement at the end of the movie is a reminder of how her identity and aspirations were continually suppressed within the confines of Elvis’s world.
For years, society’s fascination with male celebrities like Elvis Presley has often meant ignoring or undervaluing the experiences of the women in their lives. Yoko Ono, known primarily for her marriage to John Lennon of The Beatles, is a fitting parallel. Often blamed by fans for the breakup of The Beatles, Ono’s own identity as an avant-garde artist and peace activist was largely overshadowed by her association with Lennon. Like Priscilla, Ono faced immense public scrutiny and had her personal and professional identity intertwined with that of her famous partner. Her journey to establish herself independently of Lennon’s legacy, especially after his death, mirrors Priscilla’s struggle for self-definition beyond Elvis’s shadow.
There are many other women that could be used as examples, from Linda McCartney to Courtney Love. Priscilla’s story, as portrayed in the film, is a testament to the many female lives that were diminished or overlooked in the wake of these men’s fame. The film underscores the struggle for identity and autonomy faced by women like Priscilla, who were often seen as mere extensions of their more famous counterparts.
Coppola’s film is a step towards correcting this historical oversight. By focusing on Priscilla’s perspective, Priscilla does more than just narrate a life story—it actively seeks to give voice to a narrative that has been buried under the weight of Elvis’s legend. In doing so, Coppola not only challenges the traditional celebrity narrative but also enriches our understanding of the personal costs and sacrifices made by those who lived in the shadow of these cultural icons.
The film’s ending, where Priscilla asserts her need for independence, is emblematic of a larger cultural shift that Coppola is advocating for: recognizing and valuing the stories of women who have historically been relegated to the sidelines of celebrity narratives. Priscilla is not just a biopic, but a bold statement on the need to reassess and broaden our understanding of fame and its impact on personal identities, especially those of women who have long been silenced or ignored.
The themes and meaning of Priscilla
The importance of telling the stories of young women
In an interview with NPR, director Sofia Coppola reflected on the prominence of female narratives in her work, from Lost in Translation to The Virgin Suicides to The Bling Ring to Marie Antoinette. “I rarely saw teenage girls depicted in a way that I felt was relatable and kind of true to that experience for me,” Coppola said. “I always like stories about transformation—and that’s such an extreme time of transformation.”
Coppola’s work, including Priscilla, is significant in how it brings the nuanced, often overlooked perspectives of young women to the forefront (which, during that interview linked above, Coppola said she hoped would inspire young female filmmakers). By focusing on their internal experiences, struggles with identity, and the pressures imposed by society and those around them, Coppola gives voice to a demographic that has historically been underrepresented in film. Her films not only tell these women’s stories but also invite the audience to empathize and reflect on the broader societal contexts that shape their lives.
Priscilla might be the harrowing tale yet: that of a 14-year-old girl who was pursued by a 24-year-old celebrity. At 14, Priscilla was at an age where comprehending the complexities and potential consequences of entering a relationship with someone as famous and older as Elvis is challenging. Priscilla’s mother and father saw the warning signs, but couldn’t overpower the allure of celebrity life. This aspect of the film highlights the innocence and naivety with which she entered into this life-altering relationship. This reality is often lost on the media-controlled narrative and public discourse, which have historically been more fascinated by Elvis’s life, his career, his persona. This focus led to the marginalization of Priscilla’s perspective and experiences. Her story, particularly her young age at the start of their relationship, was frequently lost or underplayed amidst the sensationalism surrounding Elvis.
Sofia Coppola shifts this narrative with Priscilla. By focusing on Priscilla’s perspective, the film brings to light the complexities of her being thrust into a world of fame and adulthood far too early. This focus aligns with Coppola’s recurring theme of exploring the inner lives of young women facing extraordinary circumstances, much like in The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette. While Elvis’s narrative is often celebrated and romanticized, Priscilla’s experience tells a different story—one of a young girl navigating a relationship with a significant power and age imbalance. This aspect of the story challenges the conventional glorification of their relationship and prompts a reevaluation of the dynamics involved.
This is nothing new for Coppola, who used The Virgin Suicides to explore young female stories in a similar manner. The Virgin Suicides portrays the lives of the Lisbon sisters, who live under the strict control of their parents; their story is told through the eyes of a group of adolescent boys, yet it’s deeply centered on the girls’ experiences and emotions; the Lisbon sisters are navigating the challenging path from adolescence to adulthood. We see these same parallels play out in Priscilla: the film delves into the life of Priscilla, who finds herself under the control of Elvis; the film is told from Priscilla’s perspective, offering a rare insight into her life and emotions, distinct from the Elvis-centric narrative that dominates popular culture; Priscilla follows a young Priscilla Presley as she transitions from a teenager into a woman, under the glaring spotlight of her relationship with Elvis.
This narrative is crucial not only for understanding Priscilla’s life but also for highlighting the broader issue of how young women are often viewed in the context of their relationships with more powerful or famous men. Coppola’s film encourages a more empathetic and nuanced understanding of these women’s experiences, countering the often one-dimensional portrayal in media and popular culture.
Important motifs in Priscilla
Priscilla’s hair serves as a powerful visual motif, symbolizing the control Elvis exerts over her and her gradual journey towards self-empowerment. Early in the film, Elvis’s dissatisfaction with Priscilla’s appearance and his coercive influence in changing her hair color and style, as well as Priscilla’s eyes and outfits, is a poignant metaphor for the control he begins to wield over her life. Priscilla, young and impressionable, acquiesces to these changes, marking the start of her transformation under his influence.
As the film progresses, Priscilla’s bouffant hairstyle becomes taller and taller, visually represents the escalating degree of control Elvis has over her. The height of the bouffant becomes a barometer for Priscilla’s loss of autonomy, reflecting how she becomes more deeply entrenched under Elvis’s influence. “He had really definite ideas of how she should look, and she was almost like this doll to him,” Coppola said in an interview with NPR. “I think at first it was fun. He would take her to these stores with glamorous dresses—intimidating, but exciting. That thing when you’re young, you’re trying to be more grown up, or fit in with the older kids, and so I approached it like that.”
Towards the film’s conclusion, as Priscilla grows increasingly disillusioned with her marriage and life with Elvis, there is a noticeable change in her hair. It becomes blonder and less controlled, a symbolic representation of her breaking away from Elvis’s grip. This change in her hairstyle signifies Priscilla’s reclaiming of her identity and autonomy. It’s a visual cue to the audience of her inner transformation, her growing confidence, and her desire to carve out a life that is distinctly her own, independent of Elvis.
In Priscilla, Graceland is much more than just the home of Elvis Presley—it functions as a powerful motif representing Priscilla’s confinement and her journey towards independence. The estate, with its grandeur and fame, initially appears as a symbol of luxury and a new exciting life. However, as the film progresses, it becomes evident that Graceland is akin to a gilded cage for Priscilla.
The moment Priscilla drives through the gates into Graceland marks the start of her life under Elvis’s control. This iconic estate, while outwardly glamorous, soon becomes a space where her freedom is significantly restricted. Elvis’s insistence on her staying home, not working, and being available to him perpetuates her role as more of an ornament in his life, rather than a partner. She is expected to be the perfect companion within the confines of Graceland, with her own ambitions and desires sidelined.
Throughout the film, Graceland serves as a backdrop to Priscilla’s life of increasing isolation and control. It is depicted as a luxurious yet suffocating environment where Priscilla, despite the opulence surrounding her, is deprived of her autonomy. The estate becomes a metaphor for her life with Elvis—outwardly enviable but internally restrictive. Priscilla, in this setting, is portrayed almost like a doll in a dollhouse, an object of beauty and possession, there for when Elvis chooses to engage with her.
The film’s climax, where Priscilla drives out of Graceland’s gates, is a powerful metaphor for her breaking free from the constraints of her life with Elvis. This act of leaving symbolizes her rejection of the role she had been confined to and her decision to seek a life defined by her own choices and desires. It is a moment of empowerment and self-realization, marking the start of her journey towards independence and self-identity.
Questions & answers about Priscilla
Is Priscilla based on a book?
Priscilla is based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir Elvis and Me, which was released in 1985. Priscilla Presley was also an executive producer on the film, essentially endorsing Coppola’s imagining of her memoir.
Did Priscilla Presley get with her karate instructor?
It might seem random that Coppola chose to include two short scenes where Priscilla takes karate lessons and then shares a meal with her instructor. That man was Mike Stone in real life, and Priscilla did indeed have an affair with him while she was still married to Elvis. They dated for a couple more years after Priscilla divorced Elvis before breaking up.
Now it’s your turn
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