Behind the Candelabra - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Behind the Candelabra Reviews

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½ January 3, 2016
Funny and v well-acted biopic of the last years of Liberace, and in particular his relationship with Scott Thorson. The counter-intuitive casting of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon pays real dividends and Soderbergh really captures the sleazy mirror ball of seventies Las Vegas and the loneliness of extreme wealth.
January 2, 2016
Excellent biography of the celebrated pianist and showman Liberace.
½ December 31, 2015
I finally saw Behind the Candleabra this week on our new Netflix account. Michael Douglas was superb as the flamboyant Liberace and Matt Damon was completely believable. Good movie.
December 31, 2015
Absolutely brilliant. Great performance by Matt Damon & Micheal Douglas. Def worth a watch
½ December 30, 2015
Not quite as emotionally charged as you might expect, but it's a solid drama and personal story.
December 29, 2015
Affectionate and entertaining biopic.
October 13, 2015
& he had a vey interesting TV series.
½ September 25, 2015
"Behind the Candelabra" contains direction that is used sensitively focusing on showcasing the story. There are powerful performances from leading actors Michael Douglas and Matt Damon who look committed to their roles and make their portrayals convincing.
Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2015
Soderbergh offers a consistent blend of camp and sincerity in this entertaining biopic centered on a complex Liberace amid his fabulous palatial kitsch, with Douglas chewing the scenery in a magnificent performance that surprises for its authenticity and pathos.
September 16, 2015
If you believe the persona that Liberace displayed to the public, then you might well believe that the man never had a dull moment in his life. "Too much of a good thing is wonderful," he told his audience and he didn't just speak it, he lived it. His stage shows were a garish over-the-top monument to the joys of wretched excess and over-indulgence, a garish display dripping with diamonds and glitter and color and music. It was an image that went with him when he left the stage. He brought his work home with him; his gaudy and lavishly over-decorated Hollywood Hills mansion was a monument to his image. The Tsar of Russia never had it so good.

Liberace didn't know the meaning of the word 'subtle' and it could be suspected that his flash and glitter were a snowjob, a way of battling those who tried to bring his homosexuality out in the open during a dark time when such a headline could ruin a performer's career. When the tabloids tried to expose him, he sued and won. The audience, made up mostly of middle-aged housewives, adored him so much that they were either blind or pretended not to notice. All of his professional life, Liberace fought a never-ending battle to keep it in the closet, even going so far as to plant rumors about his love affair with Olympic figure skater Sonja Henie.

Steven Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra" does a good job of showing us the side of Liberace that the great musician spent his entire life trying to hide. This is a movie about a gay man who, feeling the approach of age, tried to keep time in check, not only through plastic surgery, but also through the presence of a rotating series of young and hansom lovers, one of whom (the movie has us believe) became the great love of his life.

"Behind the Candelabra" is not so much a biography of Liberace as a story of the five year relationship between the musician and aspiring veterinarian Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). Thorson becomes our eyes to this story. We see this young and handsome Adonis who comes to Liberace's service and is quickly seduced, not by the lifestyle but by the man himself. Liberace is an old rascal, a lusty old queen with the slithery voice of a child molester. Their lust turns to love and eventually we partake of their romance that eventually becomes a marriage. As you might expect, there is no subtlety here. This is a film dripping with the lifestyle of a gay man. How much you like the film may depend on how much of a flamboyantly gay man's lifestyle you're willing to sit through. It's strictly up to you..

Michael Douglas might not seem the first choice to play the famed musician, he's always been the symbol of masculinity, but playing Liberace offers him the challenge of stepping into the mink of a man who was so well known that occupying his skin might come off as mere imitation. Liberace's sweet nasal voice is hard to capture but Douglas takes it off the shelf of impression and makes it organic. It takes some getting used to, and so does the persona. As the movie begins, his approach to Thorson feels more like a pedophile than a man looking for a potential lover, but we quickly get use to him. After a while we begin to feel for him, a man who is feeling his age, who must hold on to a much younger man - much as a straight man might hold on to a beautiful young blonde - in order to feel young.

Matt Damon finds a saintly note in which to play Thorson, a man who takes an uneasy approach to Liberace before dedicating himself to a commitment that he knew that the man was possibly incapable of sticking to. We aren't surprised by the development of their relationship, but what is surprising is the bond that they form, which lends emotional weight to the disappointment in Thorson's eyes when questions of infidelity begin to surface. This is a film very much about a gay partnership, but it could easily have been about a heterosexual marriage. What we come to understand is that, gay or straight, relationships are fraught with difficulties and struggles.

Their romance is sort of touching. It's not all sex and sweat (although those things do surface), but a tender bond between two men that becomes so tight that eventually Liberace decides to adopt him. This is Liberace's way of getting around the fact that he can't marry another man. As we might expect, things don't go well. As with any married couple, they fight, they develop trust issues. Yet, there is a sense that they do love one another despite all of their problems. "Behind the Candelabra" presents us with one of the tenderest, but also the most bizarre marriages we've ever seen. That's especially true when it comes to Liberace obsession with plastic surgery, and for the bizarre suggestion that his young lover had surgery to make himself look, well, like Liberace himself.

What is most interesting is that as the relationship wears on - and wears out - Thorson is the one who looks haggard and aged while Liberace looks to be the younger. Its as if Dorian Grey had an intimate relationship with that painting. This is a movie that could stand for a lot of marriages, gay or straight.

Yet, while Soderbergh gets the details right, he overlooks the most astute aspect of Liberace: his music. The movie is bookended by his stage performances, but there's very little music or stage bravado in this movie. The director is happy to close the doors of Liberace's mansion and watch the man soak in a hot tub or lounge on the couch, but we miss the music, the garish and gaudy glitter-and-rhinestone stage show that made the man such a legend. We are looking behind the candelabra but there's something missing and it might have been present in a longer film. The movie is wonderful at portraying Liberace's love affairs and his wandering eye, but you can't help feeling that it should be mixed with his love for his music and his audience.
½ August 31, 2015
I saw this in a home theatre and I was impressed with Michael Douglas's versatility and ability to play Liberace with apparent ease and smoothness. Matt Daemon did particularly well here too. The full circle nature of the love affair, the themes of identity loss and sugar daddy insecurity were played to top notes. There were only a few occasions where I would have had the actors mask voice and accent a bit better. Some of the scenes could have had more intensity and drawn out the conflict like with Scott being so betrayed during his surrogate mother's funeral. While I read between the lines the emotion there, I like to see it played out. This will be one movie I remember for ever. I also appreciated the fact that many of the stereotyped expectations were saved to the end. I loved the blur perspective and ambiguous sensory cues used to express the dazed state of Scott, his imagined performance number upon Liberace's death and the coverage of real life events over time had great continuity and thought. Bravo to directory and actors. Robe Lowe was excellent comic relief too.
½ July 26, 2015
Michael Douglas like you've never seen before. I honestly did not recognize him the entire movie!
½ July 23, 2015
Although the third act of the film delays and becomes progressively slow. There is so much drama, comedy and wonder to experience in this film that explores human nature and trust.
June 27, 2015
Meh. Not bad but I didn't feel any real emotion watching it.
June 4, 2015
Such a huge Soderbergh fan and I knew it from the beginning this is kind of interesting. Its just, its disgusting to watch. But as a movie goer, this one is definitely a nailer. Its based on a true story of Lebarace. Damon and Douglas' chemistry and performance are so top notch. Just watching them do their thing will give you all the smile as they both enjoying their performances. Its gay and its disgustingly well made. Definitely not for everybody. Its just Soderbergh's films are way too awesome.
May 23, 2015
Michael Douglas is a revelation as Liberace, the flamboyant, yet somehow still closeted pop culture icon in this film. The film, taking place over the peak of Liberace's fame, also stars an incredible Matt Damon as Liberace's lover, a broken man who becomes Liberace's driver. There is amazing and lavish cinematography, - for once, I don't find anything wrong with a Steven Soderbergh film - set and costume design. Their relationship was both beautiful and troubling, and they play it all so well.
½ May 18, 2015
Powered by Douglas and Damon, Soderbergh crafts a moving and fascinating story that utilizes the tropes of the "entertainer" genre to tell a uniquely human story.
½ April 21, 2015
Douglas really nails his portrayal of Liberace. Rob Lowe character was hilarious. Damon cute as ever.
½ April 3, 2015
Great acting by two hetrosexuals .
March 18, 2015
Never let anyone become your whole world, for the world shall never change for you, especially when you allow yourself to be ever so humbly insignificant.
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