b e h i n d  t h e  c a n d e l e b r a

Behind-the-Candelabra 1.jpg

7th June 2013

Steven Soderberg

Michael Douglas

118 Minutes

15

SI

13th June 2013

UK Release

Director

Starring

Runtime

Certificate

Reviewer

Reviewed

Behind the Candelabra is based on the book of the same name written by Liberace’s long-term lover / houseboy / chauffer / everything, Scott Thurston. If the reality was even half what is presented here, well….

The new final movie by Steven Soderbergh picks up with Scott as he trains dogs on a movie set before returning home to his almost Clark Kent style existence in LA. New ‘friend’ Bob (a superbly almost unrecognizable Scott Bakula) whisks young Scott off to Vegas and introduces him to definitely not gay showman ‘Lee’ Liberace. Scott is awestruck and in what could be called a whirlwind romance, he is pulled into the opulent life of the maestro. Obviously things start well but are not destined to continue in that fashion as Scott endures a rollercoaster ride from favourite to reject over the space of five years or so.

The easiest thing to say about Behind the Candelabra is the make-up and costumes are astonishing. Michael Douglas goes from fading middle-aged, through extensive facelift to eventually looking almost as bad as the bed guy from Seven in the space of two hours and it’s truly amazing to behold. His performance is likewise mesmerizing. Liberace comes across as vain and manipulative but for the most part, he is still a likeable figure. His feelings for Scott are clearly genuine and Douglas does well to convey them even whilst missing Liberace’s gravity defying hairpiece. The relationship is nowhere near as simple as over-protective older man and innocent youth. Matt Damon’s prosthetics are equally impressive as he is cajoled into extensive plastic surgery by his lover and his performance is the equal of Douglass. Damon portrays Scott as neither a naïve farm boy nor a savvy gold digger. Scott comes across as a young man gradually consumed by a far brighter star.

The film itself manages to present the absurd humour of the situations in an impressive laugh out loud manner. Scott’s first reaction to a large crowd for a gay man is one of incredulity. Bob quickly points out that nobody in the audience has any idea that the star of the show is gay. The bright costumes contrast with the bubbling undercurrent of denial that surrounded Liberace until after his death. It’s absurd looking back now and thinking that anyone believed he was straight but at the end of the 1970’s….

There is a lot of dark in such a shiny, funny film. Soderberg uses some pretty graphic scenes of plastic surgery in stark contrast to Liberace’s brilliant performances, cutting between the two whilst Scott goes under the knife in an attempt to make him look more like the younger Liberace. But amongst all the glitz and glamour, this film entirely belongs to its two stars. Oh, except when Rob Lowe is on screen as plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz. A man so in love with his own procedures that he can’t fully close his eyes and has the expression of a man stuck in a wind tunnel….

Behind the Candelabra is a fantastically fun film, stuffed with great characters and hilariously absurd humour but it doesn't shirk the darker material. And I didn't use the word 'fabulous' once.  

Check out the Behind the Candelabra trailer here. 

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