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It has been a while since I have seen a truly great Steven Soderbergh movie but this one comes close again.

It sort of is a trend for recent biopics to not be movies that focus on it's main subject's entire lifespan but focus on one, relatively short, period instead. This has many advantages, one of them being that a movie can take its time to tell a story and doesn't have to rush through the decades and gloss over some important and emotional things. It doesn't always work out well though. Sometimes focusing on one event- or several years of a person's life isn't enough to learn anything about the person and what's driving him or her. It works for this movie however. It's a movie that's not really telling you anything but instead it's simply showing you it, as it all happens. It feels like an observation of events and through it, you slowly start to get into the character's mindsets.

It's also not picking any 'sides'. This is just as much a movie about Scott Thorson as it is about Liberace really. But through Scott Thorson, played by Matt Damon, you actually also start to learn about Liberace's, played by Michael Douglas, behavior and personality. It's an effective approach, that keeps things interesting as well as unpredictable. Even if you think you know plenty about Liberace already, you still don't know everything- or can predict all of the things that shall happen in this movie.

By just looking at Liberace, you know that he has got to be an unique personality, with an out of the ordinary lifestyle. It are people like this who always trigger the imagination and start to intrigue you, the fist moment you lay eyes on them. You may not like or admire them but it's still interesting to learn about the person behind the person. Because lets face it, Liberace was one big showboat, with an unique distinctive look and outfits and show elements to his performances. But who actually was the real Liberace? The man behind all of the bling and glitter and other show elements. This movie indeed takes you behind the candelabra and it in fact focuses more on the person off the stage.

Thing that the movie does well is show you all about Liberace's lifestyle and personality, through the eyes of another person, in the form of the Matt Damon character. He slowly gets sucked (no pun intended) into the madness and absurdity of 'Liberace's world', once he gets intrigued by this unique, very gifted and charismatic man and eventually starts to fall in love with him.

So it's not just a biopic or drama but a tragic love story as well about two, ultimately, very different persons, who start to develop an unique relationship. Thing that truly makes it work in this movie are the performances by Matt Damon and Michael Douglas. They actually have a pretty good and strong chemistry together and you can understand why their characters would be attracted to each other. It's also good to see that they weren't holding back while playing their roles. Not that the movie ever gets that explicit but there still is plenty of 'gay action' in the movie, mainly between the Douglas and Damon character. It probably wasn't always an easy- and a bit of an uncomfortable thing to play for two straight actors but Douglas and Damon show that they are great and true professionals, who besides are able to play two very convincing homosexual men.

It would have been so easy- and it perhaps was also incredibly tempting, to do things in a very exaggerated and over-the-top way for its actors but also its director and writers. After all, everything about Liberace seems over the top anyway, so why not make the movie like that as well? But the movie actually manages to find a balance between the absurdity of its subject and the tragedy. The movie feels like a very down to Earth one, despite of some of the craziness that transpires in it.

Steven Soderbergh definitely did a good job with directing this movie and of course also helps to make this a technically fine movie to watch. It has some good looking sets (the movie is set in mostly the '70's and part of the '80's), costumes and camera-work by Soderbergh himself. The make-up looks pretty convincing as well, especially for the Liberace character.

All in all, it's simply one great and not too heavy to watch drama, about an interesting subject, with plenty of fun and craziness, as well as some good depth and emotions in it.

8/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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