The new trailer for Steven Soderbergh's Behind The Candelabra sure is compelling, but will the HBO movie do justice to Liberace? The clip leaves little doubt that Michael Douglas, who plays the flamboyant entertainer in this tragicomic love story, and Matt Damon, who portrays his much younger lover, Scott Thorson, are going to be memorable, and that Soderbergh has taken a measured approach to the camp aspects of this story. But what I can't tell from the footage is whether Behind The Candelabra will give Liberace his due as a pioneering postwar performance artist.
Liberace's Cultural Impact
It's easy to mock Liberace's extreme sequin & fur vibe and lifestyle, but, the reality is, he was a show-business maverick who had an incredible influence on American pop culture. For better or worse, you can trace jump-suited Vegas-era Elvis, Elton John, 1970s glam rock, Siegfried & Roy, Madonna, Lady Gaga and even elements of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone to Liberace's show-business DNA. Way back in the conservative 1950s, he was swanning into American homes via a syndicated television show and mesmerizing audiences with a combination of shock and schmaltz. Even if he never did come out of the closet, he still broke down a lot of barriers just by letting his freak flag fly.
I'm sure that Liberace's cultural significance is not lost on Soderbergh, but I do hope Behind The Candelabra acknowledges it in some smart way. Even if it doesn't, I'll be watching when the film premieres on HBO on May 26.
Follow Frank DiGiacomo on Twitter.
Follow Movieline on Twitter.