Vintage Jarmusch, this whimsical, episodic film is structured around theme, motif, and variation rather than strong plot or character development. The mystique of Elvis resonates with an episode in the lives of each of the characters, who all end up in the same run-down hotel for one night. To the Japanese tourists, Sun Studio is a mecca at which to worship an American pop-culture icon. To the Italian widow, the ghost of Elvis is an incarnation of her recently deceased husband, an external animus of her grieving process. To one African American character, the ubiquitous image of Elvis is just another annoying reminder of the dominance of white culture. To others, Elvis remains a source of endless fascination: the bellhop receives a nod of admiration from the front desk clerk when he calculates how much Elvis would have weighed on Jupiter at the time of his death (648 pounds).
Elvis was born January 8, 1935, and WCBN disk jockey Brian Tomsic says that the film series organizers have declared January to be Elvis Tribute Month.
[Originally published in January, 2009.]