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The King (2017)

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Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, a musical road trip across America in his 1963 Rolls Royce explores how a country boy lost his authenticity and became a king while his country lost her democracy and became an empire.


Eugene Jarecki


Eugene Jarecki, Christopher St. John (co-writer)
1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »





Credited cast:
Alec Baldwin ... Himself
Tony Brown Tony Brown ... Himself
James Carville ... Himself - US Political Analyst
Rosanne Cash ... Herself
Chuck D ... Himself
Maggie Clifford Maggie Clifford ... Herself
Lana Del Rey ... Herself
Emi Sunshine & The Rain Emi Sunshine & The Rain ... Themselves
EmiSunshine EmiSunshine ... Herself
Radney Foster ... Himself
Patricia Gaines Patricia Gaines ... Herself
Mary Gauthier Mary Gauthier ... Herself
Emmylou Harris ... Herself
Ethan Hawke ... Himself
John Hiatt ... Himself


Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, a musical road trip across America in his 1963 Rolls Royce explores how a country boy lost his authenticity and became a king while his country lost her democracy and became an empire.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Rise of a King, the Fall of an Empire.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Official site


Germany | USA



Release Date:

22 June 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The King See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

$257,372, 13 September 2018
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs



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User Reviews

A Best doc of the year and a brilliant collage of images about Elvis and America.
21 July 2018 | by jdesandoSee all my reviews

"Celebrity is the industrial disease of creativity." Mike Myers

It is commonly thought that America is in decline for the greatness it knew after WWII. Writer/director Eugene Jarecki has a vision in The King of a similar decline in Elvis Presley' life from unique, authentic talent to a has-been dead in his forties. This best-so-far-this-year documentary begs us to consider the analogy although to its credit, it does not force the similarities.

The film's interesting conceit suggests that both subjects bear their own responsibility for their descent-Elvis giving into commercialism and drugs, America, well, introducing itself to solipsism and commercialism, culminating in the election of Donald Trump. While America is a decline in progress, Elvis gave up 30 years ago but has never been forgotten.

That's the rub-he achieved artistically and financially beyond even Col. Parker's wildest expectations, but Elvis was not able to handle the fame or the money. Or maybe when you can buy all the cheeseburgers and drugs you want, you can watch your belly grow as your mind shuts down. Jarecki uses Elvis's 1963 Rolls Royce to have performers like Immortal Technique and Emi Sunshine sing in the back seat about America.

As Jarecki winds in the Rolls from Memphis to New York, Vegas, and back to Memphis, it slowly becomes clear this should been one of Elvis's pretty Cadillac's; how ironically perfect that it's a Rolls, so out of touch with his roots.

Besides the simple lamentation of greatness gone too soon is the argument that Elvis appropriated Black culture on his road to fame and wealth. Although arguments abound on both sides, this point illustrates the varied richness Jarecki brings to his documentary,

At any rate, having just watched Whitney about her great voice and its descent with the help of drugs, I am dismayed that such is sometimes the fate of the great. America is no different, and the frequently-montaged images from presidents to celebrities are sometimes surprising, sometimes depressing, but never dull. Jarecki has a gallery of shots that would be impressive even without sound. It's a museum of our glory and our loss.

Along this nostalgic road, and America itself seems to be stuck there without a clue about how to save its future from the decision it made in 2016, is the prevailing idea that Elvis also followed the money and the easy way. We see how he ended up, so can we learn and make some tough decisions now?

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