Director Steven Soderbergh, recently announced in numerous interviews his intention to retire from filmmaking to focus on his painting full-time. Well this film, based on the autobiographical novel, the tempestuous 6-year relationship between Liberace and his (much younger) lover, Scott Thorson, is recounted with all the usual craft and guile we’ve come to expect in his films, hopefully a sabbatical rather than retirement.
Written by Richard LaGravenese (Fisher King, Bridges of Madison County, Horse Whisperer, Water For Elephants) the script rattles along with purpose adding layers to Soderbergh’s typically non-intrusive directorial style. The director, who often acts as his own director of photography, has created a sumptuous and glamorous feel that eats you up and swallows you whole.
He seems just at ease with big-budget Hollywood films as well as art-house independent films and this is somewhere in the middle. It’s slightly high sheen, made for television quality is understandable as it was produced by HBO, as shortsighted film companies were shy of the potential for a ‘gay only’ audience, hurting box office!
The film’s quality really lies in the two incredibly fearless performances, from Matt Damon as lover Scott Thorson and from Michael Douglas, often associated with screen seduction roles, as the flamboyant Liberace. Here he does justice to the man’s stage persona and his everyday humanity. Of course he’s buried in tons of glitter, pomade and frills but its his charm and charisma, displayed in his eyes that shine.