|Damon and Douglas|
Michael Douglas does a great job of imitating Liberace in Behind the Candelabra (Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Canada).
Not just Lee’s nasal-y voice or his flamboyant mannerisms, but at the keyboard. Douglas’ fakes a mean boogie-woogie.
The TV-movie does a great job re-creating the excesses of Libaraces Vegas lifestyle. Many of the extravagant cars, costumes and jewelry come from the late showman’s actual collection, preserved for years in a museum that was recently shut down to the public.Matt Damon is really too old to be playing Liberace’s lover, Scott Thorson, who was still in his teens when the two first met in 1977. Liberace was in his mid-’50s. Damon looks a decade younger than his 42 years, however, and paired with 68-year-old Douglas, the age separation works.
The TV-movie is a love story and it doesn’t have a happy ending.
It’s based on Thorson’s 1988 autobiography Behind the Candelabra. The book detailed their five-year relationship, which ended in a bitter and public break-up.
|Liberace and Thorson|
The entertainer put Thorson in his
Las Vegasshow, dressing him up as a chauffer and having him drive his Rolls Royce on stage.
Executive producer Jerry Weintraub, who knew Liberace, got involved in the HBO project. Oscar nominee Richard Gravenese was brought in to write the script. Matt Damon, who has worked with director Steven Soderbergh seven times (including on The Informant!, Che and Ocean’s Eleven), was signed to play Thorson.
“It’s really rare to even see a script this good,” Damon told critics last January at the TCA press tour. “What it felt like was if this was a relationship between a man and a woman, you’d feel at moments like this is too intimate, maybe I shouldn’t be here. But it’s between a man and a man, and I’ve never seen that movie before.”
Today, gay unions are legal in
Canadaand in many States, but the stigma of playing gay is still a hurdle for some actors. Douglas commended Damon for playing Liberace’s much younger male lover, “because I don’t think I would have had the courage at that point in my career to take this on.”
Douglas and Damon both shine and in fact carry this story beyond a script that relies to much on cliches and exposition.
There are some surprising cameos in the TV-movie. Dan Aykroyd plays Lee’s manager, Seymour Heller, who has an even worse hairpiece than the boss. Rob Lowe plays a freaky plastic surgeon who can’t keep a straight face. Scott Bakula is part of Liberace’s posse. Debbie Reynolds is barely recognizable and terrific as Lee’s doting mom.
It’s a bizarre story, especially the parts where Thorson undergoes plastic surgery–to look more like Liberace.
The whole thing is like La Cage aux Folles meets Elvis. That it is all true is the craziest part of a bizarre tale.