Michael Douglas gives what may very well be the crowning performance of his illustrious career, as the secretly, but very obviously, homosexual pianist and entertainer Liberace. Matt Damon plays his young love toy, and he appears on the scene looking like a groomed and buff Prince Adam as both he and Douglas prove committed to the full, giving emotional and engaging performances replete with physical alterations to match their character’s changes over time (Rob Lowe is also good in support). The film focuses on the evolution of the relationship between the pair, with the emphasis naturally leaning toward Liberace, though the story is based on the memoir of Scott Thorsen, Damon’s character, and I think I’d put down Michael Douglas as the heaviest contender so far this year for Oscar nomination in the winter (he has one previous best actor win for portraying Gordon ‘greed is good’ Gekko in Oliver Stone’s 1987 ‘Wall Street’).
At time of writing this is set to be the last feature film from director Steven Soderbergh as he takes a break of undetermined length (not ‘Side Effects‘, as was originally reported, although they were likely filmed around the same time) and it would be a ‘fabulous’ way to bow out of cinema, featuring as it does many refinements to his craft, especially the use of music in the narrative, with here the sound never imposing a viewpoint and yet still driving the story forward – with that of the ensuing scene repeatedly preempting the transition by appearing in the current one, and also the subtle thread of devilish comedy (see his excellent ‘The Informant’ (09) for more along that vein, again with Matt Damon). Filmed not long after Michael Douglas’ was given the all clear regarding his throat cancer, you can be sure this will be work he will never forget, as you can tell by his heartfelt press release below. (Incidentally, his cancer was caused by the sexually transmitted HPV virus, of which there are many strains, so much so that many cannot currently be detected and those that can be are often not tested for at health clinics, in many senses it’s assumed that if you’re sexually active, you are probably carrying some version of it. Worth reading here for more, albeit succinct, info).
(As a further aside, in a fantastic strategic move, a couple of years ago researchers looking to solve a genetic problem in the search for an AIDS cure, sent the real life puzzle out to gamers on Second Life, and one of the many thousands of players actually did solve it. Creatively using the computer game trained minds of gamers to help solve humanity’s problems was a great idea, and indeed it remains so for the future)