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Sundance 2012 Review: Obsession Runs Deep in ‘The Last Elvis’

By  · Published on January 25th, 2012

Carlos Gutiérrez (John McInerny) is an Elvis impersonator and while he does not completely look the part, the man sure can sing like the King (and goes so far as to ask everyone in his life to call him as such.) Carlos spends the majority of his time watching and listening to Elvis concerts, planning his upcoming shows and eating Elvis’ favorite food (banana and peanut butter sandwiches), giving way to the idea that singing like Elvis isn’t just something Carlos is good at, he may be obsessed with the man himself.

This idea is further driven home when Carlos’ ex, Alejandra (Griselda Siciliani) expresses her concerns over his affect on their daughter (named Lisa Marie, naturally) and Alejandra announces she is going to try for sole custody. While Carlos seems sad over this revelation, he also doesn’t do much to stop it, seeming to have his mind on other things.

Carlos continues to allude to something big he has coming up, quitting his factory job and having his band rehearsing non-stop for an upcoming gig that will feature him playing the piano and singing solo. But an unexpected phone call changes everything and suddenly Carlos is forced to focus on being a dad rather the King of Rock and Roll.

A car accident leaves Alejandra (who Carlos calls Priscilla) seriously injured and unconscious while Lisa got away with a only bump on the head, but now no mother to go home to. It is clear that Carlos cares about them both, rushing to the hospital to find out what happened and get Lisa (Margarita Lopez) to bring home with him. The accident turns out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise as it gives Carlos and Lisa the opportunity to really get to know one another and establish a real relationship.

When Carlos gets the news that Alejandra is going to be okay the family reunites and a slight tattoo reveal on Alejandra’s arm (reading “Love Me Tender”) hints at what their relationship was like when it first began. Although Carlos is clearly sad Lisa will no longer be living with him, he shifts his focus back to his tour, packing up and (literally) burning any bad bridges he plans on leaving behind. But rather than joining his band on the road (or even taking any of his Elvis costumes with him), Carlos travels alone to Graceland to celebrate his forty-second birthday.

While on the bus to Elvis’ mansion, the tour guide reveals that Elvis died on the property at forty-two years old and you begin to realize that the duffle bag toting Carlos may have bigger plans for his birthday trip than just getting a few pictures for his scrapbook.

The Upside: The Last Elvis is sharply filmed by director Armando Bo and in hindsight; even the smallest moments were actually hints at where the narrative was headed – a poignant ending that leaves you wondering what it really means to idolize an artist. McInerny turns in an amazing performance and when he is singing on stage, he truly does sound and feel like the King himself.

The Downside: The scene of Carlos and a call girl (at least I assume she was) seemed random and did not help to move the narrative along.

On the Side: The bevy of celebrity impersonators on Carlos’ entertainment circuit were hilarious “cameos” that popped up every so often, ranging from KISS to John Lennon to Iggy Pop.

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Snuggle up with the rest of our Sundance 2012 coverage

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