The film ought to work even better for those who didn't know of Liberace, as Douglas' portrayal then wouldn't be encumbered by memories of witnessing the real man's act on screen. But I think some of those of younger generations might only see the off-putting duplicity of this unique individual, whose closeted-life paranoia was hardly a shining advertisement for progressive gay politics.
L's reputation as a global superstar seems now to have been all but been expunged from memory, not only surely because of the manner of his demise during an infamous series of denials as to the true nature of his illness (I still clearly recall the publicity announcements of his loss of weight being due to a 'water-melon diet' - this being still at a time when ignorance and scare-stories about AIDS were rife and precious fodder for the tabloids) but also because there is hardly anything of permanence that he has left behind, other than a few films of TV appearances. There is certainly nothing of lasting significance in the recording field.
In the U.K. he had just the one Top 20 'hit' - 'Unchained Melody' which reached the dizzy heights of number 20 itself for all of one single week in 1955!
In Mark Kermode's positive review of this film for the BBC he tells of a younger member of staff pronouncing the name 'Liberace' to rhyme with 'face'. So far have 'the mighty' fallen!
This film, beginning in 1977 at the start of his relationship with Thorson, takes the story up long after Liberace's popularity had peaked , which had probably been in the late 1950s. But even at a date as late as the start of the film he did still have a loyal fan-base (particularly of blue-rinse ladies) - and he did still possess big-name allure that few could compete with, right up there even with Sinatra himself.
The story is an interesting one. I haven't read the Thorson book on which the film is based but it's still fascinating. One knows there will be a 'car crash' in the relationship between the men but I didn't know at what point it would come and what particular event would trigger it, apart from guessing that it would be one of jealousy, justified or not.
Rob Lowe, as the unintentionally funny plastic surgeon, is remarkable. Good also to see Debbie Reynolds on screen again, if only twice briefly. (I didn't even think she was still with us!)
Although we get good sight of some of the man's outlandishly garish costumes it was a pity that we didn't see a like impression of the adulation in performance he got almost universally, all his performances here taking place in the one theatre, and all with a curiously muted audience, and a barely visible one at that. But, as indicated, the action takes place long after his own 'bubble' had burst so it may have been factually accurate. However, apart from a retinue of house staff and bodyguards, it still provided no illustration of his continued status as a 'living legend'.
One particular curiosity I noted. How was it that in the late 1970s and into the 80s he could not afford a colour TV? Even I could!
I feared I might have been disappointed by this film. I wasn't - and I mark it with a commendable......................7.5