‘Priscilla’ (2023) Ending Explained & Movie Spoilers: Why Did Elvis And Priscilla Presley Get A Divorce?

How little do we know of the things we do know? The true impact and meaning of an event, any event, are so much deeper than what you get when you take the cumulative value of all the perspectives into account. And in that manner, when you know just one side of the story, you barely know the story. The fairytale romance that Elvis fans couldn’t stop swooning over was a whole nightmare soaked in something that was seemingly masquerading as real love. It’s the late King’s ex-wife’s perspective that Priscilla unabashedly sees the complicated courtship and marriage through—unsurprisingly, given Priscilla Presley is one of the executive directors.

Spoilers Ahead


What Happens In The Film?

It’s the late 50s, and the world can’t get enough of their sweetheart, who’s been staying in Germany to tick off his U.S. Army assignments. Homesick or not, it was rather odd of Presley to want to soothe his frustration by dumping his issues on a 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu. Elvis was 24 at the time. And the ninth-grader who’d occupied a space in his mind was fighting her parents’ very legitimate concerns about her seeing someone significantly older than her. Now, Priscilla being inspired by Priscilla Presley’s memoir “Elvis and Me” sort of makes it crucial to at least make an attempt to look beyond the obvious creepiness of it all. But that gets to be a tough job when Elvis chants the boilerplate classic manipulator mantras to basically groom a naive teen. It’s not that he doesn’t set the tone for how the relationship is going to go right away, considering it takes him three long years to call a dispirited Priscilla to remind her that she’s not been forgotten. Gutsy, for sure, but at the same time, formed with the generic, time-appropriate yardsticks that define a man. I’m talking about the approach the super-confident Elvis took with Priscilla’s parents. From coming over to ask their permission to court her to sending her a first-class flight ticket to fly her out to Memphis, it was only a matter of time before Elvis took complete control of her. And that’s exactly what happened when Priscilla’s parents were convinced to send her to stay at Graceland and finish her schooling in Memphis.


What Was Priscilla’s Life Like In Graceland?

A doll to brighten up Graceland was all that Elvis really wanted. All that talk of love was not a sign of reciprocation when it came to actual effort, and Elvis never really bothered to even make false promises. At an age that should’ve been about sleepovers and posters all over the room, Priscilla was barred from “making a show of herself” on the lawn or actually making a friend. Dreadful silence took over every time she set foot in the house until it was time to leave the place for school or one of Elvis’ whimsical trips to casinos or boutiques. The young girl with a heart full of love didn’t even get a chance to experience what love and kindness looked or felt like. And, therefore, there was no way for her to know that her much older partner dictating what she could wear and what kind of makeup and hairstyle would suit her best was not exactly a love language. The big-hair-bold-eyes look that young girls got obsessed with and generations to come helmed as an iconic fashion statement was how Elvis stole that sweet adolescent charm from Priscilla’s face.


How Were Elvis And Priscilla’s Relationship And Marriage?

Jacob Elordi’s towering Elvis may not hold a striking physical resemblance to the real “King of Rock and Roll,” but there’s something to be said about how big and domineering the man looks next to the petite young girl he’s caught in his trap. Priscilla’s heartbreaking internalization of the fact that none of her feelings will ever find an ear came in phases. Her grievances were never heard, and her tears went overlooked. The Elvis we get to know in Priscilla is made of quiet, almost effervescent rage. A verbal assault was, sadly, far from the worst reaction she could expect if she dared to voice her desires. Most of her time was spent waiting for him to make some time for her. So it’s obvious that whatever he’d offer when he’d be around would seem far better than the excruciating days, weeks, and months she’d spend without him. It’s a sketchy area to discuss, of course, but the matter of intimacy between the two was odd for multiple reasons. He’d planned to keep her “intact” and “pure” until she became his wife. While you could convince yourself that he was keeping it on hold until she crossed the threshold and stepped into adulthood, that was hardly the reason behind the distance between the two. If her age was at all a factor that bothered Elvis, he wouldn’t have gotten her hooked on the drugs he was on. What Elvis saw in Priscilla was someone he could control—someone he could mold into being the perfect, meek wife who was beautiful enough to show off as his prized possession.


Why Did Elvis And Priscilla Filed For A Divorce?

While it does cover a lot of ground, Priscilla isn’t too keen on walking through events in a hurry. A lot happens without the film losing control of its pace. As it would be for anyone of her age, there was a noticeable shift in Priscilla throughout the course of her relationship with America’s heartthrob. What makes it immensely uncomfortable to see the moments they spend together is how little they really know about each other. Elvis didn’t even bother knowing the girl he courted, married, and knocked up before the wedding flowers could wilt. He’d been in total control of every step she’d take. From setting the career-or-me rule to not even letting her buy a dress she really wanted, Elvis was evidently clear about how he wanted to dress his doll up and play with her. If you think about it, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between how his fans saw him or got to know about him and how his wife found out about his life. Priscilla’s learning of his numerous extramarital escapades through magazines and tabloids happened so often that it could’ve been made into a montage.

Priscilla isn’t unreasonably polite in addressing the many things that made Elvis an awful man, boyfriend, and husband. He’d lash out in the worst possible ways if his wife even dared utter a word against his incessant infidelity. With such a fragile ego that he’d be whining about being hit too hard with a fluffy little pillow, it really is no surprise that he was the kind of man who repeatedly pushed her to the brink of abandonment to Pavlov her mind into needing him. His relationship with his career wasn’t smooth sailing, either. Any bit of kindness and empathy he was capable of only slipped through his fingers with time. And Priscilla, still unsure if there even was a life outside of being his wife and mother to his daughter, learned to keep her mouth from whimpering out of pain. But neither growth nor self-actualization can be completely strangled by abuse. Any flicker is a reminder of the hope that, beyond the mountain of insecurities, there’s a land of better things. When it became impossible for her to let him consume her life completely, she flapped her wings just to see if she could. She found herself a life outside of Elvis, his estate, and his terrifying father. It’s not that Elvis wouldn’t have cared if he got to know that she was involved with her karate trainer. But chances are, he never cared enough to even find out what his wife was up to.

Priscilla doesn’t confine Elvis’ portrayal within the bounds of how he was as a husband, although anything else we learn about him was also something that heavily impacted their relationship. For instance, Elvis’ Bible-reading phase only served to create the kind of sketchy environment that threatened Priscilla with repetitive heartbreaks. Even his whimsy about dabbling in spirituality and psychedelics, reckless people’s choicest association with the spiritual world, created even more spaces for Priscilla’s lack of personal agency to be exploited and abused. It was only a matter of time before the cons outweighed the mostly imaginary pros of being married to Elvis.

The film’s ending is the tombstone of a young girl’s naive dream—the dream of having her beloved reciprocate at least a fraction of her sincerity. Yet, at the same time, the fact that Priscilla could even see beyond the manipulation that made up her rose-tinted glasses is an overwhelmingly hopeful turn of events. Priscilla’s and Elvis’ marriage was doomed before it even happened. But Priscilla transcending the limitations imposed on her by the wildly uneven power dynamics of their relationship is a huge win in itself. She loved the man she said goodbye to when she decided to part ways. A divorce didn’t mean she’d have to sour the sweet bond she’d come to form with Elvis’ grandmother and their housekeeper. Just like choosing to put an end to a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere, moving on didn’t mean she’d have to go into denial about the love they shared.


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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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