Behind the Candelabra Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 21, 2014
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.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2013
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.
Super Reviewer
½ November 8, 2013
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.
c0up
Super Reviewer
June 11, 2013
'Behind the Candelabra'. Soderbergh's directional flair is evident. Douglas and Damon are both great. Beyond that, /shrug.

As a huge fan of Soderbergh's films, I ultimately don't know what drew him to this project, as it wasn't evident in what I saw by any means.
Super Reviewer
April 13, 2013
Superb acting by Michael Douglas. Strong performances by Matt Damon and Dan Akroyd. The largely recreated locations and costumes were spot-on, although an eye for detail could tell the costumes cheated a bit with flashy fabric that didn't exist in the 1970s. But then again, Soderbergh likely didn't have Liberace's budget! The film was true to the book, although my impression from reading the book was that the romance was a little more one-sided. I have been waiting for nearly 2 years to see the film come out, and it was well worth the wait. Liberace was a supremely interesting character living and thriving in a time when he really might not have been accepted. The symbiotic denial issues of the man and of society are equally fascinating, as is brought to life in this film.
Super Reviewer
May 28, 2013
Soderbergh is one of the worst directors to tackle a love story, but the countless oddities, the fabulous glitz, and the stunning performances are hypnotic.
Super Reviewer
½ May 27, 2013
I usually skip the made for tv movies. But when a movie stars Matt Damon and Michael Douglas and it's on HBO, it's worth a watch. "Behind the Candelabra" is the story of Liberace(Douglas) and his relationship with the much younger Scott(Damon). It's about how the Liberace imposes his lavish lifestyle onto Scott. From showering him with money and jewelery, to forcing him into plastic surgery. Then, it plays out how it all crashed down and Scott's attempt to get palimony before Liberace's death in the 80s. Douglas is absolutely amazing, and this is probably the best performance he has ever done. Never once do you go "Man, Douglas does a great Liberace." Instead you really believe you are watching Liberace. Damon does good, but he is overshadowed by Douglas. Rob Lowe plays a plastic surgeon who works on them both and has had too much done himself. Lowe is awesome and should be considered for Supporting nominations when it comes to awards. This is probably the gayest movie I've ever seen, and I've watched and liked "Brokeback Mountain". So if homosexual's make you uncomfortable, or if your homophobic, then you should pass on this. Otherwise, you should check it out for a fascinating look at one of the most polarizing figures in music history.
Super Reviewer
½ February 5, 2014
Behind the Candelabra is a brilliant drama from master director Steven Sodenbergh about gay pianist Liberace, but where the film truly finds its greatness is the performancds from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Both give some of the best performances of their careers with Douglas as Liberace and Damon as his secret lover Scott Thorson. They truly own this brilliant drama with a script to be adored and top notch direction. I had forgotten how brilliant a TV movie could be since it seems to all be lazy Lifetime movies now, so thank you HBO for giving us something for the ages.
Super Reviewer
½ May 30, 2013
Matt Damon's performance deserves to win awards, and Michael Douglas' as Liberace should even more so. It feels nothing like a TV movie, it's very cinematic and stylish. Great cinematography and music as well. The ending is an emotional and bravura ending, the best I've seen in quite some time. It's the type of ending that would get a standing ovation. The only issue I had with this film was that it dragged on a bit in the middle. Still, it's totally worth seeing, mainly for the wildly great performances it's perfection of an ending. Brilliant.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
June 5, 2013
In "Behind the Candelabra," Scott Thorson(Matt Damon) works as an animal trainer in Hollywood. On a date with Bob Black(Scott Bakula), they go to see Liberace(Michael Douglas) play. Scott is amazed that Bob gets them backstage where Scott and Liberace chat. In return, Liberace is impressed with Scott's veterinary skills and offers him a full time job in his retinue. Scott accepts.

For the record, while Michael Douglas has never been that self-conscious an actor, he has also never really had the opportunity to fully submerse himself in a role until he portrayed Liberace in "Behind the Candelabra" for which he is mostly successful.(If you think that is wild, wait until you see Rob Lowe. And hey, is that Dan Aykroyd?) Here, we learn that Liberace had plastic surgery, was gay, and liked sex - a lot, while hiding in plain sight.(As he puts it, some people see what they want to see.) That's not to mention some biographical snippets, the most interesting of which is that Liberace was his real last name. But that's pretty much it. The movie's lack of development is again symptomatic of Steven Soderbergh working too quickly and wanting to get to the restaurant in time for the early bird special. For example, even though the movie is too long, it could have used more fantasia like the sequence towards the end of the film.
themoviewaffler.com
Super Reviewer
½ May 29, 2013
In 1977, young Scott Thorson (Damon) is introduced to Liberace (Douglas) at one of the pianist's extravagant live performances. Liberace and Thorson immediately fall for each other and the younger man moves into the lavish home of his aging idol. At first Thorson embraces his new lifestyle as Liberace showers him with gifts but, after a while, he becomes suffocated by Liberace's paranoia and possessiveness. When Liberace introduces Thorson to plastic surgeon Jack Startz (Lowe), the musician's controlling nature takes on a new level as he pays for his young lover's face to be reconstructed to resemble his own.
Wait, wasn't 'Side Effects' Soderbergh's final film? Not quite. 'Behind the Candelabra', having been shot for U.S cable network H.B.O, is technically a TV movie, though it's receiving a theatrical release in Europe. Soderbergh failed to find backing from Hollywood as his film was considered "too gay". It's a sign of how much American TV has changed that a film can be considered too challenging for cinema audiences yet perfectly okay for beaming into America's homes. Equally, it's a sign of how Hollywood so often likes to cut off its nose to spite its face. America's gay population is as large as its black population. Would studios balk at a script for being "too black"?
It's ironic that 'Behind the Candelabra' was made for the small screen as it's the most cinematic film Soderbergh has made in years. This may sound strange, considering he's been putting out an average of two movies a year, but I felt the director had grown lazy in recent years, churning out films with little artistry or inventiveness. Soderbergh was an early embracer of digital video, a format which allowed him to be as profligate as he was prolific. His last few movies have had a TV blandness as a result but 'Behind the Candelabra' feels like the work of a film-maker who just found his groove, rather than one packing up his viewfinder.

More than a standard biopic of Liberace, Soderbergh's swansong is really a story told from the point of view of Thorson. The central plot owes a lot to 'Sunset Boulevard', with the aging and paranoid actress replaced here by an aging and paranoid musician. Thankfully it's not a cruel film. It would have been all too easy to simply make Liberace a target of cheap jibes but Douglas, Soderbergh and screenwriter Richard LaGravanese give us a character that, for the most part, we laugh with, rather than at. Douglas' performance is breath-taking, a cross between Woody Allen and a gay version of Pacino's 'Scarface', and LaGravanese provides the character with quips sharp enough to cause Joan Rivers to sack her writing staff. Damon does a fine job as the not-quite-straight man to Douglas' comedian while Lowe steals the show in his few scenes, unrecognizable under layers of plastic surgery.
In the modern use of the word, you'll likely not see a more gay movie this year. In the traditional use, you won't see many so gay.
Super Reviewer
September 24, 2013
Michael Douglas is truly something as Liberace. You almost get the sense that he was channeling him from the grave and what a result - a troubled grandma in a man's body with an insatiable desire for sex and an escape from loneliness. Matt Damon ends up not having to do much.
Super Reviewer
August 26, 2013
Incredibly powerful Oscar-winning performances by both Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Strangely, this was produced by HBO for TV. The film is shocking and stark in its portrayal of the power play in the relationship between Liberace and his young gay lover.
PantaOz
Super Reviewer
½ July 16, 2013
I needed to check what was everybody raving about - this latest movie from the director Steven Soderbergh with Matt Damon and Michael Douglas had such high ratings that's impossible to ignore it. And there was the first mistake I made: I set up my expectations very high!

Started very nice and it was going to be some kind of a true-life love story between a humble young aspiring veterinarian and Liberace, an icon of kitsch and knowing excess, which, by the way, I never heard of before! Steven Soderbergh is presenting us with the story showing the difficulty in falling in love with someone famous because even if that person may love sincerely, the fame always gets in the way. I have to say that for me that wasn't a particularly revelatory idea, but the cast under the Soderbergh found a way to say it one more time... and I simply didn't care. The screenplay was based on the book by Scott Thorson and Alex Thorleifson with the same name as the movie, and traces about 10 years in the relationship between Thorson (Matt Damon) and Liberace (Michael Douglas). Maybe for the fans of this entertainer could be interesting to watch all this but to me the good directing and excellent acting could not replace a lack of interest for the story telling me about the life of a couple uninspiring characters who were acting as two spoiled bitches (in a real sense of the word).

Somehow the US society in general can accept that this eccentric love affair seem conventional (thanks to the two principal actors it was easy to accept that), but why would the rest of the world want to watch a "love" between a king of kitsch who could not really tell the difference between playing on stage and playing in real life and a drug abuser? I'll rather go for a hike... of course, you could make a different choice and enjoy it more than I did.
Super Reviewer
May 31, 2013
It's very well acted, directed, shot and edited. But I just had no interest in these people whatsoever.
Super Reviewer
May 28, 2013
Soderbergh's put together a biopic that's remarkably focused. It does fall victim to the usual tropes of the genre (the downward spiral, the repeating arguments, etc.), but that's a small quibble. Soderbergh lets LaGravenese's solid screenplay tell most of the story, and its nice to be able to linger in scenes well after most directors would frenetically cut to the next event. Damon and Douglas have great chemistry (Douglas gives his best performance in years as Liberace) and Rob Lowe gets an honorable mention for his terrifying performance/face. I never thought a film about Liberace's final decade would work as a tragic love story of sorts, but it makes the finale more moving than one might expect.
toejambaseball24
Super Reviewer
June 11, 2013
Interesting subject with some good, brave performances. But take away the gay stuff, and it's pretty much a straightforward, predictable biopic.
Super Reviewer
May 10, 2014
I really enjoyed this. Great cast, especially Douglas' portrayal of Liberace.
Super Reviewer
½ September 28, 2013
Shockingly realistic and truthful, Matt Damon and Michael Douglas both needed to win an award for their performance. I enjoyed the technical aspect of the film as well as the acting but I don't understand the point of the film really, I actually felt kinda crept out by the raw performance. It's good, but I wouldn't say I liked it personally.
Super Reviewer
½ July 29, 2013
As good as Douglas and Damon are in this film (and they are VERY good) the whole thing is too long and is too reminiscent of 'Boogie Nights'. Not that being similar to the latter is a bad thing but it kind of feels like we've been here before. However this is actually a 'true' story so I have to give it that and it certainly made me want to find out more about Liberace. It's a shame that this wasn't realised in the cinema in the States as probably both leads would have been a cert for Oscar time. Damon has the harder role and Douglas has the showier turn (how can he not!) but it's rare to see the latter play someone so vulnerable and I hope he keeps getting roles that stretch him like this one. The make-up for the film is very good too and I was shocked when I saw Douglas' last scene. The trailer suggests the film is a comedy. Be prepared for something much more hard-hitting.
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