It is difficult to not compare stuff. I try (and fail and fail and fail) to take a movie as it IS, as an independent thing, a complete sentence. Comparing a movie to a book (or an amusement park ride) is as unfair as asking a kid why he can't be more like his older brother. It does disservice to both.
I mention this because I know a little bit about Liberace. I own a few of his albums, all the DVDs of his televison show, and have been to the now-closed Liberace Museum to hear bedazzled grandmas tell breathless stories about Lee "He Emerged From A Faberge Egg" Liberace. I know about his Depression-era youth, his Italian father insisting that young Walter become a musician in spite of his mother's stoic Polish scepticism. I have seen the early photographs of Lee looking like a giggly dimpled sausage in the 1950's
|Wait, perhaps this photo is TOO silly...|
|Okay. That's better|
|"I count von... VON piano! Bwa ha ha!!"|
Basically I'm saying that I am one of the handful of people under the age of 85 who knows anything about the man. (Those people who have heard of him are probably my friends.) I'm not proud of this. He was not an exemplary person. He didn't save lives or change the world or even make very good music. (Really, he didn't make very good music at all.) And if you ever even hinted he was a homosexual he would sue the pants off of you. (Like, in a bad way.)
|"I don't know what we're doing but whatever it is, it's totally NOT gay!"|
|You know I HAD to include this photo|
|Liberace = not serious. Really, one can't be when wearing clown shoes.|
|If you asked nicely, I'm certain he would have let you join him in the tub as well.|
All of this made BEHIND THE CANDELABRA and interesting experience to watch. (Please Note: This movie has bare bottoms and swears and graphic images of facial reconstruction surgery. Do not watch if you are allergic to any of those things because it will make you sad.) It was tricky to not point to stuff and say "I know that story! I know that car! I know that piano!" It was also twisty watching it because Scott Thorson, the man the movie is about, is now in prison and I knew I was seeing a part of his past and maybe WHY he ended up in prison.
Basically I totally failed to disconned this movie from real life.
|Exactly none of you are surprised.|
Yes Debbie knew Lee in Vegas and yes she is an exciting old star to have attached to this project. What is FAR more important is how utterly compelling she was in her ten minutes of air time. I have never seen Debbie not smiling, not cute, not blonde and apple-cheeked and girl-next-door. In this film she is stern and unsmiling and utterly, stunningly beautiful. I know she did not live her entire life to play Francis Liberace but in a perfect world someone would film her puttering around a nursing home as this character. That's a movie that I would watch once a week. She was fantastic.
Costumes, Hair and Makeup
Ellen Mirojnick had only 8 weeks and a limited budget to costume a movie about a man who loved costumes. Here is an interview with her about the process and Here is a link to the exciting announcement that she won an Emmy for her work on this film.
|And here are the costumes.|
On the left is Liberace in a cape so crusted with beads and crystals and embroidery that 200 grandmas went blind making it. On the right is the outfit they made for Michael Douglas which echos the original so well that I didn't notice it wasn't the same.
Also, hair and make up were stunning. Make up managed to give us an accurate look into what bad 1970s plastic surgery could be
and transformed Matt's real face
into the direct-silicone-injected Liberace-look-alike nightmare it became.
So that's amazing.
Anyway, those were the awesome things about this movie. Matt Damon was good, the music was good, and the filmwork was evocative and cool. Michael Douglas was, well,
|The Ascention of Lee|