Monday, May 6, 2013

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week

Liberace and Scott Thorson c. 1979
If you were alive during the 60's, 70's and 80's you know who Liberace was. At one time, the highest paid performer in the world, the flamboyant (though closeted) pianist was known for his feathered capes, fur-lined costumes and mirror-encrusted piano. He was also famously sued by former "driver" Scott Thorson for palimony. Liberace died of AIDS in 1987, denying his sexuality to the very end. Director Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies and Videotape; Magic Mike) has turned Thorson's memoir into an HBO movie called Behind the Candelabra

The movie stars Michael Douglas as Lee and Matt Damon as Thorson (who claims Lee made him have plastic surgery to make him look more like his employer/lover - though from the photo above, it's obvious Thorson wasn't exactly a 'buttahface' to begin with). I know I've talked about this movie before, but HBO just released a behind-the-scenes making-of video and I though I should share (via):

So, here are a few thoughts:

While I never need to see what Q calls "Michael Douglas' raggedy ass" again, I think he looks pretty good in the clips I've seen. And Damon looks amazing. But... why the need to cast straight actors in these roles? I would have much preferred to see unknown gay actors playing gay characters. Sure, they're both larger-than-life people. But when will actually gay actors (other than the self-loathing Rupert Everett) get to play gay roles in major films (even if they're just on cable)? Critics will undoubtedly plaud Douglas and Damon for being 'brave.' I call BS. While Debbie Reynolds is nearly unrecognizable in her makeup as Lee's Polish mother and Rob Lowe looks like a disco diva pothead, it all smells rather... fake. Yes, the design team seems to have gone out of their way to recreate Liberace's homes, furnishings and costumes. And the script is based on the memoirs of a man who was actually there. But the only other person who knows the whole truth is dead and can't defend himself against any of Thorson's claims.

"But Uncle P, everything about Liberace was fake." Well... on the surface, yes. But underneath there was a real human being who struggled and lied about himself to the world for his entire life. Liberace may have been all glitz and glamor both on and off stage, but I can't help but feel that a glitzy, glamorous movie about him can only do disservice to the real and ultimately tortured man underneath all the rhinestones and fur.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope Soderbergh and company manage to find a way to delve beneath the Swarovski crystals and etched mirrors and give us a real glimpse into the tortured soul of one of the most famous closeted gay men ever. But nothing I've seen so far indicates anything to that effect. I don't subscribe to HBO (I gave up on them after "Six Feet Under" ended), I have several friends who do and I plan on watching at one of their houses. 

Behind the Candelabra premieres on HBO May 26th.

More, anon.

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