I have said this before, and I will say it again: “When HBO makes a movie ─ they really make a movie. Steven Soderbergh’s cinebiography of Liberace “Behind the Candelabra” will blow you away.
“Candelabra” is a less than flattering look at one of the world’s greatest pianist and characters. The movie is buoyed by two outstanding performances: Michael Douglas plays the flamboyant, strutting Liberace, and Matt Damon plays his boyfriend, Scott Thorson. The story starts out with the young Thorson and a friend (Scott Bakula) taking in a Liberace performance in Las Vegas along with a throng of middle-aged women. The naïve, foster-parented Thorson is stunned by the concert, and it just so happens that his buddy knows Liberace. A back stage visit is in order and Thorson is introduced to Liberace. Liberace makes eyes, invites Thorson over to his house, and I think you probably know where this is going. I am not going to recite the whole movie, because then you would not have to see it; but I will give you the crux of it.
Liberace was not only a world talent, but also a self centered egoist who would eat people up. His homosexuality was carefully hidden by his agent, so the general public was not aware of his sexual preferences; but homosexual or not, the man was abusive. Liberace knew that he was the star and he was very persuasive. He got what he wanted and when he was done using, he threw people away like a piece of garbage. The movie basically follows that agenda.
Michael Douglas is amazing as the piano plucking Liberace. He has the strut; he has the nasal undertone; and he even has the Rhine-stoned coats. This could be the best performance in Douglas’ career. Matt Damon puts in an equally, if not better role, as the young, easily impressed Thorton who gets sucked into Liberace’s web. Dan Aykroyd has a small, but convincing stint as Liberace’s agent, and Rob Lowe has a good run as Liberace’s pill-passing plastic surgeon. HBO has done it again. (Running time: 118 mins.)
Reviewer’s Note: “Behind the Candelabra” is suppose to be Soderbergh’s last film.
My Rating: 5 of 5 Grand Pianos