Priscilla Parent Guide
This movie is a series of red flags that go unregarded as a lovesick teenager is wooed and manipulated by a rockstar.
Parent Movie Review
Her father’s transfer to the US military base in Wiesbaden, West Germany, has left Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) homesick and lonely. When she’s invited to a party at the home of Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi), the US Army’s most glamorous conscript, Priscilla is thrilled. She is even more flattered when he invites her to his room for conversation and a kiss. Elvis, in turn, is touched by her calm empathy and wants to see her again.
There’s just one problem. Priscilla Beaulieu is fourteen years old.
Last year’s Elvis biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann, neatly whitewashed the origins of Elvis and Priscilla’s relationship, but this film leans into the icky details. It is, after all, Priscilla’s story. Instead of focusing on Elvis’s music (which is not featured in the soundtrack), the script unsparingly tells a tale of lost innocence, manipulation, and abuse.
Priscilla is a series of red flags that go unregarded by either the Beaulieu parents or their love-struck teenage daughter. Elvis gives lavish gifts to Priscilla, sends her a ticket to Memphis (with a side trip to Las Vegas), and buys her more sophisticated clothes. Once he persuades her parents to let her live in Memphis while she finishes high school, he selects her wardrobe and instructs her to dye her hair black so her blue eyes will be more noticeable. Having once told her to never change, Elvis clearly doesn’t see the irony in changing her to suit his whims.
More warning signs pop up when Elvis yells and throws things at Priscilla when he’s angry. He also threatens to send her home when she disagrees with him, which ensures the now-seventeen-year-old’s compliance. Surprisingly, he doesn’t have sex with her, determined to wait until they’re married. But, as he points out, there are “other things” they can do in the meantime.
The “other things” are part of the movie’s playlist of negative content. There are frequent scenes of the couple making out in bed, which is particularly disturbing when she’s only sixteen and he’s twenty-six. One evening they take provocative photos of each other, thankfully without explicit nudity. Also concerning is the amount of drug use on screen. Elvis’s prescription drug abuse problems are well known, and he’s constantly popping pills in the movie. It’s particularly upsetting when he casually hands them out to his teenage girlfriend. Their eventual experimentation with LSD comes as no surprise, but it’s not something most parents will want their teens to watch on screen.
The negative content is unsettling but it’s more painful to watch the toxic relationship erode Priscilla’s autonomy and individuality. Desperately eager to earn Elvis’s love and approval, the young girl lets him mold her into his ideal girlfriend – beautiful, quiet, and tied firmly to his gilded prison of a home. Cailee Spaeny offers a brilliant performance here, gazing adoringly at Elvis, stifling her own feelings, and walking stiffly, doll-like down the hallways of Graceland. When she finally finds the courage to get out of her real-life Heartbreak Hotel, it’s a moment of relief for the audience.
Whether or not you want to be in that audience is a matter of personal preference. This isn’t a cheery romance or a fawning biopic. It’s a tough film that looks at the tragic results of relationships built on insecurity, neediness, control, and emotional abuse. It isn’t entertaining, but it might serve as a valuable warning for some viewers.
Directed by Sofia Coppola. Starring Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Ari Cohen. Running time: 113 minutes. Theatrical release November 3, 2023. Updated November 3, 2023
Watch the trailer for Priscilla
Rating & Content Info
Why is Priscilla rated R? Priscilla is rated R by the MPAA for drug use and some language.
Violence: A man throws things at his wife on several occasions: she is frightened but not physically harmed. A woman gets a black eye in a pillow fight. A woman is given handguns which are used for target shooting.
Sexual Content: An adult man passionately kisses a teenage girl. They embrace in bed but do not have sex. They take sexual photos of each other that are provocative but do not feature explicit nudity. A man is briefly seen in bed with a sleeping woman who is not his wife: prior sexual activity is implied.
Profanity: The script contains two sexual expletives and approximately 17 terms of deity, a dozen minor profanities, and a crude anatomical word.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults drink alcohol in social situations. A teenage girl drinks alcohol. A man gives a teenager a sleeping pill that knocks her out for two days. He also gives her stimulants. A main character repeatedly abuses prescription drugs. Main characters use LSD and their “trip” is shown on screen. Adults frequently smoke cigarettes, which is historically accurate.
Page last updated November 3, 2023
Priscilla Parents' Guide
What red flags do you see in the relationship between Elvis and Priscilla? How does her age influence the dynamic of the relationship? How does Elvis manipulate her? Why does she succumb to his wishes? What finally changes her perspective on her life and marriage?
For more about the facts behind the movie, you can follow these links:
Harper’s Bazaar: Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s Full Relationship Timeline
What resources are available in your community for victims of emotional or physical abuse?
Wikipedia: List of domestic violence hotlines
US Department of Health & Human Services: National Domestic Violence Hotline
Government of Canada: Find family violence resources and services in your area
Refuge (UK): National Domestic Abuse Helpline
Related home video titles:
If you can’t get enough of this story, you can watch it from another perspective in Elvis. Austin Butler delivers a great performance as The King, and the soundtrack rocks to the beat of his music.
Priscilla Beaulieu Presley was not the only celebrity spouse to struggle with her partner’s addictions. Walk the Linetells the story of Johnny Cash and the effect his alcoholism had on his career and his marriage to June Carter.