Is this Steven Soderbergh’s last movie? I hope not, but if it is, it’s a brilliant way to go out.
I knew nothing of Liberace before this film, aside from the extravagant dress sense, that he played piano, and that he was gay. Michael Douglas brings all of that to life, and more. Liberace spent his life moving from one young man to the next while remaining the middle-aged woman’s entertainer of choice (so it seems). He was, at one point, the world’s best paid musical star, presumably being to the 70s what Elvis was to the 50s, the Beatles in the 60s, and Michael Jackson in the 80s. Behind the Candelabra tells the story of his (supposedly) most significant relationship, with a young wannabe veterinarian, Scott Thorson (Matt Damon).
The film is very funny (with special credit going to Rob Lowe as a plastic surgeon), though not a comedy, and in many ways is as sweet and innocent as Damon’s Thorson is. Reportedly considered too gay for US cinema (it was produced by cable TV network HBO), the charge is ridiculous, especially when you consider that it is aimed predominantly at an art house audience who are far less likely to be turned off by the subject matter than the mainstream crowd.
Anyway, back to the film. It’s great fun and rarely lags. The only problem I felt was that it never fully delved into Scott’s emotional investment in Liberace and I never truly felt the two were in love, and as such the emotional kickers that arrive at towards the end of the film never truly land. But it’s still fabulously designed and fabulously entertaining. Douglas’ performance is a masterpiece and is so far away from anything you’ve ever seen him do before, it’s such a shame that he won’t be able to collect a little gold statue next February.
Length – 1hr 58mins – Feels – 1hr 45 mins