Monday, May 27, 2013

Behind The Candelabra: Liberace

The Liberace movie on HBO with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, directed by Steven Soderbergh, with appearances by Debbie Reynolds, Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Cheyenne Jackson and Paul Reiser, was well acted. It was also boring. It was a story maybe not necessary to be told but told anyway.

However, it would have been hard to miss.  Douglas and Damon did not have much chemistry. I think the relationship as it actually happened must have been a pretty straight forward trade off that eventually hit the rails. Like the marriages of Tom Cruise. Does Nicole really have a story? Not really. It was a transaction, they had. Transactions that are agreed upon in the light of day, or even covertly, or perhaps unconsciously, do not make great stories. Unless the characters are so compelling---and also well  understood.

My impression is that neither of these characters were ever really known. Liberace never came out from behind the outfits and the silly shows. Scott Thorson, his lover-and-son-in-one, was in the foster care system and was guarded, heavily, by Liberace, so was not known, either.

As a young person, I saw Liberace going strong. I had no interest in what he did. He looked so ridiculous. He seemed like an offshoot of Lawrence Welk. He was doing something kind of subversive yet pretending he wasn't. I never liked that. Inuendo? Nah.  He did not seem gay as much as weird man-lady in monstrous fur. He also seemed to be someone who was imitation royalty and because of this, he almost seemed flown in from middle Europa of the middle ages. He was one of the few men who informed the world what a gay man was. To me, this was horrifying. Embarrassing.

And, well, he died. And they made a movie. Soderbergh, declaring having given up directing films (for now)--made a real flatty. But being in service to Richard LaGravanese's this-then-this-happened script, maybe what Soderbergh did was spectacular. I only hit pause twice. I smell Emmys. But do I ever really get that smell out of my nose?

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