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Behind the Candelabra (2013)

tomatometer

95

Average Rating: 8.2/10
Reviews Counted: 95
Fresh: 90 | Rotten: 5

Affectionate without sacrificing honesty, Behind the Candelabra couples award-worthy performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon with some typically sharp direction from Steven Soderbergh.

90

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Critic Reviews: 21
Fresh: 19 | Rotten: 2

Affectionate without sacrificing honesty, Behind the Candelabra couples award-worthy performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon with some typically sharp direction from Steven Soderbergh.

audience

71

liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 13,838

My Rating

Movie Info

Before Elvis, before Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was Liberace: virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer and flamboyant star of stage and television. A name synonymous with showmanship, extravagance and candelabras, he was a world-renowned performer with a flair that endeared him to his audiences and created a loyal fan base spanning his 40-year career. Liberace lived lavishly and embraced a lifestyle of excess both on and off stage. In summer 1977, handsome young stranger Scott

Unrated,

Drama, Television

Richard LaGravenese

Sep 17, 2013

HBO Films - Official Site External Icon

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Latest News on Behind the Candelabra

September 17, 2013:
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This week in streaming video, we've got a Certified Fresh apocalypse comedy, a prehistoric family...
September 16, 2013:
Behind the Candelabra Tops Creative Arts Emmy Awards
The HBO Liberace biopic won eight awards at Sunday's ceremony.

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All Critics (95) | Top Critics (21) | Fresh (90) | Rotten (5)

It's both a romp and uncomfortably real.

June 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Witty, briskly paced and consistently entertaining.

May 28, 2013 Full Review Source: The Atlantic
The Atlantic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Buffed to a typical HBO high gloss, Candelabra is a visual feast. It shines brightest in those moments where it captures the rhythms of a relationship in its first blush of affection and its seemingly inevitable collapse.

May 28, 2013 Full Review Source: USA Today
USA Today
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The stunning and quite intimate performances by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are award-worthy.

May 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The story is told less as a cause-and-effect narrative than as a collection of incidents that add up to something with a crushing emotional weight.

May 28, 2013 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is one of the strangest and strongest TV movies in memory.

May 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As deeply entertaining and creative as it is socially enlightening.

June 27, 2014 Full Review Source: Windy City Times
Windy City Times

Douglas seems to be having fun playing such a flaming swishy character and hams it up.

February 11, 2014 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Douglas made his name playing powerful, morally questionable men, and this is a clever addition to the canon.

September 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Flicks.co.nz
Flicks.co.nz

Michael Douglas transforms himself into the Las Vegas entertainer with style and, most of all, believability. Liberace was larger-than-life to say the least, and it would be easy to go the SNL route with a character by painting him with broad strokes.

September 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Movie Chambers
Movie Chambers

Soderbergh and LaGravenese go deep beneath this voyeuristic fascination with wealth, fame, and the secret lives of celebrities.

September 18, 2013 Full Review Source: The Dissolve
The Dissolve

One of [Soderbergh's] strengths is in the way he subverts traditional narratives and finds interesting moments that other directors wouldn't think twice about.

September 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Glenn Dunks
Glenn Dunks

Crammed with garish decor, wild costumes and some unapologetically affected central performances, the final chapter in the life of flamboyant pianist Liberace gets a feisty, full-bodied treatment here.

August 20, 2013 Full Review Source: 3AW

With a lovely musical score by Marvin Hamlisch and Douglas and Damon perfectly comfortable with, you know, the gay thing, this is less surprising in its depiction of Liberace as a rampant queen than its authorised view of him as a complete bastard.

August 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Rip It Up

Michael Douglas turns in a charming performance as Liberace.

July 29, 2013 Full Review Source: ABC Radio Brisbane
ABC Radio Brisbane

Behind the Candelabra is a fascinating peek into the secret life of an icon; the sad (reportedly) last hurrah of a cinematic maverick and proof that Douglas and Damon are fabulous.

July 26, 2013 Full Review Source: 2UE That Movie Show
2UE That Movie Show

The production design is terrific, revelling not just in period detail but in all of Liberace's excesses, and, typically, Soderbergh's camera and use of music are never anything other than top notch.

July 25, 2013 Full Review Source: ABC Radio (Australia)
ABC Radio (Australia)

Soderbergh's masterstroke is how well he takes the audience on the journey of initially finding Liberace's world absurd and comedic, to ultimately feeling empathy for him.

July 24, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema Autopsy
Cinema Autopsy

It's ultimately a story about the power imbalances in relationships, and the quietly devastating way that couples can build one another up, only to tear each other down.

July 23, 2013 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

Its raison d'etre is a terrifically spirited performance from Hollywood's most heterosexual of Lotharios, Michael Douglas, aided and abetted by Damon and Lowe.

July 21, 2013 Full Review Source: The Sun Herald
The Sun Herald

The screenplay's ability to keep us engaged and involved that the opulence loses its lustre and the things that matter in life rise to the top

July 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, this is a project that might have gone terribly wrong, but ranking high on the entertainment meter, it smacks of authenticity, has pizzazz, humour, poignancy and above all, heart

July 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Fearless and fabulous

July 18, 2013 Full Review Source: The Popcorn Junkie
The Popcorn Junkie

As fabulous as it should be and not a jot more or less.

June 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

Excellent performances by Douglas and Damon highlight this tale of love and need.

June 13, 2013 Full Review Source: Akron Beacon Journal

It's the best skewering and celebration of celebrity I've seen in some time. Televisual origins be damned: this is one of the year's best movies.

June 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Quickflix
Quickflix

Audience Reviews for Behind the Candelabra

The legend, the man, the pianist, Liberace, finally gets his silver screen treatment in this bio pic from director Steven Soderbergh. Starring as the magnificent songbird himself is Michael Douglas, giving one of the absolute best performances of his career. He blends so effortlessly into the role of drug taking, surgery having, mega diva Liberace, that you forget that it's him pretty quickly into the movie. It's just so surprising at first, but then Douglas has been in some risqué faire before. Damon is also surprisingly great in his role as boy toy Scott. Debbie Reynolds even sneaks in a masked performance as Liberace's mother. While going in I knew it was going to be an interesting film, the levels of insecurity, daddy issues, and instability that the relationship between Liberace and employee Thorsen reached constituted a deep set of insecurities that seem unfathomable. The film moves quickly between years and remains quite interesting, until Thorsen's eventual meltdown in the last forty minutes, dragging the rest of the film down with him. It's a story that many don't hear about and should, because it is more scandalous than I could imagine, and that's saying something.
January 21, 2014
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

Soderbergh offers a consistent blend of camp and sincerity in this entertaining biopic centered on a complex Liberace amid all his fabulous palatial kitsch, with Douglas chewing the scenery in a magnificent performance that surprises for all its authenticity and pathos.
January 3, 2014
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

Oh my shame on me, I actually thought this was a parody or spoof comedy about these extravagant Vegas performers like Siegfried and Roy hehe. Turns out this is actually a biopic of the ultra extravagant piano performer Liberace. The film is based on a book/memoir written by the young man Liberace fell for, Scott Thorson, and dissects his close relationship with the homosexual pianist. You may need sunglasses for some sequences within this film...high levels of glitter and sparkle warning!.

Spoiler alert (of sorts), if you're uncomfortable with homosexuality on screen then this film might not be for you. I was actually surprised at the level of gritty realism this film portrays, I wasn't expecting it, but sure enough Soderbergh doesn't beat around the bush. In all honesty you can tell straight away its gonna be edgy, the question is can you handle seeing a skinny makeup laden Michael Douglas and a chubby tarted up Damon going at it? oh and there's also a highly gay Scott Bakula looking like one of his 'Quantum Leap' characters...remember that?.

I know nothing of Liberace, I grew up when he was still around and big and I do recall seeing him on TV here and there as my folks did like him for his classical skills. After a a little research I was stunned to discover how accurate and well portrayed everyone was in the film. Douglas should be in line for an award of some kind for this performance, its only when you see the real Liberace and then you see Douglas that you realise how damn good he is. Of course he is imitating the man but his mannerisms, body movements/gestures and general overall idiosyncrasies or quirks are brilliantly conveyed. I won't deny it is kinda creepy to watch Douglas at times, his wiry, leathery reptilian-like looks covered in tonnes of glittery makeup whilst clad in some cringeworthy flamboyant attire that a fat Elvis wouldn't say no too...its enough to make you gag at times. Must say he looks terrible with the bald cap on and his aging flabby torso, yikes!.

Quick point: I have no idea how they did the live piano sequences but trust me it looks damn good. I'm sure Douglas isn't playing the piano but blimey it looks like he is! very impressive scenes.

At the same time Damon is also fantastic in his role and looks just like the real Thorson. I'm unsure if his mannerisms are the same as I found no real footage of the man but he looks the ticket. Again its creepy to watch Damon at times, the lavish makeup, camp behaviour, full blown kissing and tight sparkly revealing underwear...its all very errrm...homosexual. Not that that's a bad thing of course, its just an extreme eye opener to see these two fellas going at it and acting this way.

I did enjoy seeing how Liberace carried on I must admit, to see his previous bit of fluff whom he gets rid of for Damon's character. The way the previous bit of fluff knew exactly how Liberace behaved because he'd seen it all before and knew his time was up, he was old hat. I liked the rather camp house boy Liberace had around the mansion and the fact he knew about Liberace's devious ways, Dan Aykroyd's rather blunt and gruff manager character and a round of applause to Rob Lowe as the seedy slimy plastic surgeon/drug dealer.

'Hey Scott, why don't you stay outta my f**kin business, now give me back to Lee'

The level of narcissism shown by Liberace to actually have Thorson's face altered to look more like his own was pretty eerie really. The fact that Thorson agreed and the way everybody carries on about it in the film is like a car crash, you just can't look away!. Its in these sequences where Lowe really shines plus it shows us the indulgence and vanity shown by all involved. Yet despite that you do feel Liberace cared very much for Thorson, there was true love there. Unfortunately being involved in show business meant real feelings could get smothered very easily with egocentric behaviour...as displayed by Thorson at the end.

I think lavish and flamboyant are the key words here, everything about the film (and this man's life) is just that. The sets are tremendously well created and really show how this man lived, more eye openers folks!. All the costumes and props seem to have been recreated to the tiniest detail, not only that but sequences from his real shows appear to have been recreated too. If you check some of Liberace's You-Tube clips out you'll see how pinpoint these sequences have been made, I really can't falter anyone involved with this production.

The story is very familiar really, it could be any relationship between any two people male and female, a simple tale of mistrust, lying, promiscuity and wealth. Towards the end the film does become quite sad in all honesty, you do come to like Liberace and his squeaky tones, you know Thorson did care about him deep down and at the very end the gifted performer is given a nice send off and rightly so. You can see what will happen a mile away its very easy to predict all the way through, but the ride to get there is undeniably a show stopper.
November 8, 2013
phubbs1

Super Reviewer

Whenever I think of Liberace I always remember that scene from the original Austin Powers film where while looking over the history books to catch up on the 30 or so years he had missed while in cryofreeze he suddenly declares "I can't believe Liberace was gay". Liberace's talent was matched only by is exuberance. This could have have been the most awful biopic of all time had it been handled by the wrong director but Soderbergh, who I really find hit and miss, got every single thing right. It's probably my favourite biopic of all time now. It is both funny and tender but doesn't pull punches when it has to. Matt Damon has never been better in my opinion and Michael Douglas was unrecognisable and also brilliant. The supporting cast is a mixed bag of fantastic too with Scott Bakula, Debbie Reynolds, Dan Aykroyd and Rob Lowe in a not to be missed performance.
July 1, 2013
SirPant

Super Reviewer

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