Soderbergh Makes Liberace Campier Than Ever

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
April 8 2013 5:18 PM

Soderbergh Makes Liberace Campier Than Ever

Liberace
Michael Douglas as Liberace

Still from Youtube.

There’s some debate about which aesthetic term is appropriate when speaking of Liberace, the infamous Las Vegas piano-man who swore by excess and lived by the light of a thousand candelabras. My feeling has always been that he was more kitsch than camp, but then such distinctions are, for me, a matter of theological import. Regardless of what interpretive lens though which you choose to view the man, though, the trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s new HBO movie portraying Liberace’s relationship with his hunky young driver Scott Thorson promises a film that will deliver camp delight in spades.

The glittering camp nuance that hooked me was the moment that Liberace (played, in a brilliant bit of unexpected casting, by Michael Douglas) first scans Thorson (a deliciously ingénue Matt Damon) in his dressing room with an effete little wiggle of the head. You can tell that when those eyes see something they want—be it furniture, fashion, or flesh—they are used to receiving it. And satisfaction does seem to be forthcoming for Liberace—at least until we eavesdrop on the two having a lover’s quarrel in the tub in which Thorson, understandably upset, points out that he “doesn’t even have his own face.” Perhaps Liberace has replaced the old one with something by Swarovski to match the décor?

Advertisement

In any case, the slightly giddy, slightly gross electricity between Douglas and Damon is palpable and perfect for this romance born of late-capitalism’s decadence. Add on the tantalizing jolts of Rob Lowe as a plastic surgeon, Debbie Reynolds (!) as Liberace’s mother, and Dan Aykroyd as a gentleman who prefers to grip his telephone receiver like a teacup, and you’ve got the makings of a camp electrocution. I, for one, look forward to plugging in. 

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.