Based on the book of the same name by Liberace's ex partner, Scott Thorson, the film tackles the tale of a show-business legend who becomes infatuated with a young man, takes him in, gives him clothing, jewels, a house, and a fleet of cars to show his affections. And for awhile it's a wonderful life for both of them - each man supplying what the other needs. But then, when Liberace insists that his partner undergo facial plastic surgery so that he will look like a younger version of himself...one understands that this was probably one hell of a dysfunctional relationship (to say the least).
Matt Damon plays Thorson, and he's nothing short of brilliant. Physically, Damon appears at first like some sort of late 70's disco angel - all feathered blond hair, delicate features and designer jeans...but as the story continues one watches his physical (as well as mental) metamorphosis into a drug addicted (thanks in part to Liberace's insistence that he loose weight by seeing a quack doctor who prescribes a boatload of pills --- said quack doctor played to the hilt by a barely recognizable Rob Lowe), reconstructed object that his mentor, eventually looses interest in.
Michael Douglas' take on the legendary and outrageous performer is actually quite good - in lesser hands, this might have teetered off into high camp, but somehow, Douglas manages to keep the parody at bay, and creates a rather grounded version of someone who often came off like a cartoon character. That said, Douglas also shows us the darker side to "Lee" (as his friends called him). A man who saw what he wanted and took it any way he could. Behind that prancing, fey, dandy awash in capes and glitter, lay a brilliant entertainer, businessman, and predator.
Though she only appears briefly, Debbie Reynolds is marvelous as Lee's mother, Frances. I think this might be the only time I've seen Reynolds in anything, and not known it was her right off the bat.
|Lee and Scott - the real deal|
No one but Scott Thorson really knows what went on in that gilded cage - that said, hitching your wagon to a closet case in the public eye is not the sort of job that makes for a happy ending, and being a star fucker of any sort, probably leaves a lot to be desired. So if your job was fucking Liberace, one can only imagine the real hell that might have caused.
For the record, in the real world:
* Liberace died of AIDS in 1987
* In 1989 Scott Thorson testified against Eddie Nash concerning the infamous "Wonderland Murders".
* After his testimony, Thorson entered the witness protection program.
* Some time in 1990 he was shot five times in a drug deal that went bad, but managed to survive.
* In 2012 it was reported that Thorson was diagnosed with stage II colon cancer. He had allegedly made public pleas via the internet to help fund his medical treatments.
* As of the date of this posting, Scott Thorson is in prison charged with burglary and identity theft.
So much for happy endings.