The most requested photograph from the White House is the one showing Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon shaking hands.  But what led to that odd historic moment?  Elvis & Nixon is a quiet yet effective comedy about that might have led to the historic meeting between two seemingly opposite people.
In late 1970, an aging Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) is growing concerned about America's counterculture, whether it's hippies, drug use, Communism, or Beatlemania.  Deciding he needs to get personally involved, Elvis recruits his friend Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettfyer) and they travel to the White House, requesting a meeting with Richard Nixon.  Elvis' plan: to become a "Federal-Agent-at-Large" and to go undercover, infiltrating and arresting people in the counterculture.
Having the most famous singer in the world going undercover may be ludicrous, but Nixon aides Egil "Bud" Krohl (Colin Hanks) and Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters) see this as an opportunity for Nixon to improve his likability in almost every demographic.  Unfortunately, Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) just doesn't want to entertain a musician in the Oval Office.  But Elvis and his friends aren't going to accept "no" for an answer, and the two famous people may have more in common than anyone would have guessed...
It would have been easy for Elvis & Nixon to be a simple set of celebrity impersonations, but director Liza Johnson brings out the humanity and desires of the main characters.  Michael Shannon makes Elvis both welcomer and prisoner of his fame, casually accepting women swooning all around him while wishing he could just enjoy a regular life.  (That may be why he desired to go undercover.)  Kevin Spacey has less screen time as the not-yet-disgraced President, yet he manages to make Nixon brilliant and domineering -- yet somehow turned around when he meets Elvis, who casually expects to get and do what he wants.

The humor here is quieter, but it's effective: Elvis' omnipresent guns, Bud and Chapin struggling to make the meeting happen, even Nixon's surprised and surprising response to the person who may be better known than the President.  Elvis & Nixon is an enjoyable, offbeat and plausible imagining of what might have led to this historic meeting.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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