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How do you make a serious movie about a figure as over-the-top and parody-ready as Liberace? Maybe by not taking it seriously at all.
That's not to say that this new trailer for the HBO film Behind the Candelabra doesn't have plenty of drama in it-- you don't go around smashing champagne glasses for nothing, after all-- but that Steven Soderbergh's gift for adding comedy into the most serious of subjects is once again on major display. Having worked with both Michael Douglas and Matt Damon before, Soderbergh seems free to dig into the ridiculous and the sublime of Liberace's relationship with Scott Thorson, from Thorson's onstage role as the driver of Liberace's sequin-studded Rolls Royce to Liberace's terrifying demands that Thorson get plastic surgery to look more like him. It's insane, but it's also a relationship based on… something real. More real than Liberace's hair dye, at least.
In the hands of just about anyone else we'd be worried about a Liberace biopic, but Soderbergh's mastery of tone has shone through in every look at the film we've had so far. Given Soderbergh's claims that the movie was "too gay" for Hollywood, it's interesting to see this trailer play so coy, hinting at a handful of intimate moments but cutting just before Douglas and Damon actually kiss. Are they saving the good stuff for the HBO subscribers? Or is there a worry even from that fearless network that viewers might recoil by seeing too much?
Even with summer movie season gearing up, Behind the Candelabra still looks like one of the most fascinating things on offer. Are you as excited as we are? To help make your decision, check out this clip from an old Liberace TV special to see just how spot-on the costumes and makeup are for Behind the Candelabra. At the very least, some costume Emmys ought to be on their way.