BEHIND THE CANDELABRA
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe
Running Time: 118 minutes
Don't kid yourself into thinking that this is a biographical film that is ONLY about Liberace, because it's not. 'Behind the Candelabra' is a film that tells us of ten years of Scott Thorson - Liberace's secret lover. It does feature Liberace heavily, and it tells us a lot about him, but it is focussed mainly on Scott.
The story opens with Scott before he's met Liberace (or Lee, as he's so affectionately called), and follows through his secret affair, and his way of life under Liberace, right up to Liberace's death in 1987.
The first five minutes of the film don't do it justice, as they lack most of the fabulous gay glitz and glamour that follows.
The first thing I must note is the fabulous performances from both leads - Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson. Both men did a great job with their characters, particularly Michael Douglas who really did find his inner homosexuality in this film, as he had many touching moments, but also lightly humorous ones too. His character was a joy to watch on screen. Matt Damon was brilliant as well of course, however I felt that his character didn't offer him enough range. Rob Lowe also has a much smaller character, but he definitely made the most of it.
The overall look of the film is breathtaking, filled with lights, glamour, fun, everything shiny - from pianos, to oversized mink coats, and the sheer allure and romance in Liberace's house is mesmerising - even if the film itself wasn't good (which it definitely was!), it would be worth watching it just to be blown away by the costume, makeup and the art direction.
The script and direction of the film was great too - with a very distinct and almost quirky feel to it.
The film is rated '15', presumably for language (although it uses profanity very light-heartedly), a few gay sex scenes (we don't see anything, anyone under 10 wouldn't even know what was happening) and 2 almost gruesome scenes with plastic surgery, which I must admit even I couldn't watch. It's entirely up to you, and what you think your child can handle, but I wouldn't be against showing it to your kids, and I would say it's easily suitable for anyone aged 11 or over.
Overall, a sparkling, award-worthy film which I highly recommend.
This film is one that my Mum and Dad watched a few months ago at the cinema and they were full of praise for it. Whilst flicking through the films available on my television package I saw the name and instantly recognised it. Watching the advert, I thought it looked quite comical and although I didn't really know who Liberace was at the time and didn't have much interest in him I thought it looked like a good film and decided to watch it.
I paid £3.99 for 48 hour rental and this is a film only review.The film was released in May 2013 so it is a very recent film. It is 118 minutes long and was filmed on a budget of 23 million dollars. The certificate is a fifteen and the film contains swear words, sexual scenes and some very gruesome plastic surgery scenes.
=== CAST ===
Michael Douglas plays Liberace and he pulls him off so well. He has the look, the voice, everything - his performance is really flawless. He seriously deserves an award for his performance in my opinion. Matt Damon plays Scott. As someone who has seen many Matt Damon films it felt strange watching him play a young naive guy given his usual roles.
I was really impressed though and the character must have been a hard one for him to get into character for, especially as the character progresses and becomes a real diva and flamboyant but his acting was really good, and I think he did amazingly well to actually kiss Michael Douglas, shows how dedicated he is as an actor lol. Other actors in the film include Rob Lowe who plays a plastic surgeon, Dan Aykroyd as Liberace's agent and there are plenty more, none which I really recognised. A full cast list can easily be found online.
=== WHAT IS THE FILM ABOUT? ===
This film is all about the private life of Liberace. Liberace was a very famous piano player and his career spanned from 1936 to 1986. Now I have to be honest and say that prior to seeing this film I had no idea who he was, but it is obvious from watching the film that he was an absolutely huge idol back then - he had massive wealth and countless screaming fans. The film does of course touch on his successful career and we see him perform several times at his shows but the main focus in the film is his relationship with a young, very normal guy (at first, anyway) called Scott Thorson.
The relationship is very strange and Liberace sees him as a son, lover and friend, and even tries to adopt him! It really is a bizarre watch, especially when the plastic surgery comes into it. The film is based on the book written by the real Scott Thorson. Now I know that this might sound out of order to him but I think that seeing as Liberace is dead and can't stick up for himself, how do we know that everything Scott has said is true? Not that it matters of course as it is only a film but if you want to watch a completely true account of Liberace's personal life then maybe this isn't a completely accurate account - maybe it is I don't think it is possible to really ever know given the circumstances.
Personally I do think that it is mainly true, some bits seem a little over the top but given how rich Liberace was I guess he just didn't know what to do with his money and his life turned into a bit of a freak show. Everything that Liberace says to Scott in the film can't be proven to have actually happened really but in the film it feels very real because of the acting. The acting in the film is excellent and the whole thing does actually seem disturbingly real because of how excellent the acting is, and Michael Douglas is absolutely amazing in portraying him.
=== MY THOUGHTS.. ===
I wasn't too sure about this film because as I said before I'd never heard of Liberace before. I thought it might be a little bit boring but it did look funny in the advert, and in the end I really enjoyed it and it is one of the best films that I have seen. The film isn't perfect and I found my self frowning at a couple of points, the first one being that the film spans over a ten year period and no one really looked any different apart from Scott because of the plastic surgery but the other characters didn't seem to age so I think that was a bit of laziness perhaps, a little bit of make-up and hair dye could have been used to make it believable that a few years had passed as the film sort of skips through different time periods.
The film is easy to get into and I didn't find my self thinking 'well when is something actually going to happen?' The beginning of the film where Scott goes with his friend to see Liberace was good because we get to see Liberace performing before we actually know what he is really like. At first I thought he seemed like a very friendly man and a good performer but then further on in the film when he's performing I could see him for what he really was sort of thing. Liberace and Scott get together in the film very quickly, which had the potential to seem completely unbelievable but the way it was done made it seem believable and it did show how manipulative Liberace was and I felt really uncomfortable watching most of the scenes where Scott and Liberace are kissing and cuddling etc, not because they are homosexual but because of Liberace's creepiness.
There are other characters in this film other than Scott and Liberace, including a house boy, another guy who performs with Liberace on the piano, Scott's foster mum and dad and a few other people too. I really liked the concept of Liberace's fans thinking that he was straight as it made me wonder if there are any celebrities like that in real life at the moment. I also liked the scenes where Liberace is performing as his shows really were spectacular costume and setting wise, however it is obvious that back then people didn't have much to entertain themselves because nowadays I don't think he'd have been anywhere near as successful as he was back then. I also I really liked the déjà vu scenes where you can just see history repeating itself. I also found the whole saga about his agents attempting to cover up the cause of Liberace's death really intriguing.
It was really interesting to see Liberace's house, jewellery, costumes, tens (or at least it seemed it) of dogs, his adoring female fans, his cars, his staff who would literally do anything for him.. it definitely shows how the other half (celebrities) live, and I think that he had so much money he didn't know what to do with it. He spends a lot of money getting Scott to have plastic surgery so that he can look like his son which is both disturbing and fascinating. These scenes are pretty gross though and really quite graphic!One of the funniest scenes in the film is where Liberace reveals he's been wearing a wig, and tells Scott that if he dies on the operating table (whilst having plastic surgery) to put his wig on quick before anyone sees him, that made me laugh out loud and there are a few other funny bits in the film which are funny because they're so bizarre but the film isn't really as funny as I'd expected.
The film touches on Liberace's fondness for pornographic movies and the scene where he is in the film booth and Scott is really ill disturbed me a lot, I'm not sure why but it just did and it made me dislike Liberace's character even more. Saying that, even though the character is unlikeable, I did find my self often smiling at his mannerisms and some of the stuff he said because he was such a diva. The scene which really stood out to me was the ending - the funeral scene, where Liberace is performing and being hoisted up while wearing angel wings. It was strange but funny and actually quite touching in a strange way. As well as focussing on Liberace this film also focusses on Scott, his problems with drugs (caused by Liberace putting him on some dodgy diet pills) and his naive love for Liberace, which I think grows over time as at first he doesn't seem too keen. The acting in the film is really good and I enjoyed the film a lot.
=== RECOMMENDED? ===
Yes, I would definitely recommend this film and I would happily watch it again. It really was a fascinating watch and the fact that it is actually based on true events makes it even better.
"Too much of a good thing is wonderful"
Behind The Candelabra is a biographical romantic drama movie based on the life of Pianist Liberace. The movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh and released in the United Kingdom in June 2013. The movie stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.
~ * The Plot * ~
Scott Thorson is a young man who is raised in a foster home. When he is seventeen he is introduced to famous Pianist Liberace and becomes his lover. Soon Scott is surrounded by the madness of Liberace's over-the-top, celebrity lifestyle; which after a while becomes too much for him and he begins to feel suffocated.
To be honest, I wasn't really sure what this movie was about when we went to the cinema - we just fancied going to the cinema and seeing whatever was on. Whilst I had heard of 'Liberace', I wasn't sure exactly what or who it was as Liberace was before my time. However I did enjoy the movie. I thought that this movie had a good plot; it was interesting and I think the fact that it is based on the real life of Liberace made it even more interesting to watch. I found the ending quite sad especially as it emphasis on the fact that this was a real story.
I loved all of the glitz and glamour in this movie; the scenes and costumes were just amazing and I loved seeing behind the scenes of a celebrity lifestyle. I thought that the movie gave a really good insight into the Liberace's lifestyle and allowed the viewer to see how such a lifestyle can affect people - from both Liberace and Scott's point of view. The movie is really over the top and is even hilariously funny in places - so if you like a bit of comedy then you will probably like this story.
I liked the character of Liberace yet there was something mysterious and something I couldn't put my finger on that I disliked about him too. I thought he was a funny little character; so full of life, charming and so talented too. I liked the character of Scott as he was very down to earth and just a genuinely likeable character.
I thought that the acting in this movie was amazing. Michael Douglas did a cracking job of playing Liberace - it wasn't until after I saw this movie and seeing how Liberace was that I realised how good of a job Michael Douglas had done. I also thought that Matt Damon played the part of Scott really well. Both actors brought the characters alive and they had great chemistry. A great job guys!
The movie is a 15 which means that it must not be viewed by persons under the age of fifteen due to the fact that there is sexual content and bad language etc.
The movie is generally fast paced although I did think that the first part of the movie was so much better than the second part as it moved quickly and got straight to the point without hanging around too much. The second part of the movie I thought dragged on a little bit too much. This certainly wasn't enough to put me off the movie however, just that I thought it could have been speeded up a bit more.
All in all I would recommend this movie.
Thanks for reading!
Xdonzx / xd-o-n-z-x
Film Only Review:
I'm in my mid thirties and I have a few childhood memories of seeing the flamboyant pianist Liberace performing on television. I must have been quite young at the time but Liberace's performance and spirit was something quite unforgettable. He was an amazingly talented musician who made his art unique by wowing audiences with his charming personality and his gratuitously showy costumes. Young or old, you couldn't fail to be impressed by him. I first heard about this 2013 Steven Soderbergh directed release about a year before it came out at the cinema. I was very much looking forward to seeing the movie after seeing Michael Douglas was cast as Liberace. I thought it sounded like a real challenge for the actor and one that I wasn't sure he'd be able to pull off. I was also doubly interested because I already admired the other major cast members involved, Matt Damon, Scott Bakula and Rob Lowe.
When the trailer for this movie came out I was a bit shocked by it. I had read an article saying that Soderbergh had trouble funding this because studios in Hollywood were referring to it as "too gay". After watching the trailer I thought I could somewhat understand this reaction. Initially I thought the level of sexual content seemed over the top and then I realised that I simply hadn't seen many mainstream or high profile movies where the sexual content was between a gay couple and where the gay scene had been studied so acutely. After seeing the movie I can state that the trailer actually exploits many sexy moments in much the same way blockbuster movies will show femme fatales in their bras slinking up to buff heroes. I think it's because I'm a straight woman and movies with gay characters as main players are a rarity that it at first seemed shocking or unusually explicit.
Michael Douglas plays Liberace. I have seen Douglas in many, many roles in my lifetime and I can honestly say that this is the best performance I've ever seen him give. There's no hint of Mr Hollywood here, no signs of the actor behind the character mask. I did wonder whether Douglas had the acting chops to be able to pull off this transformation, whether he could really embody that amazing spirit and zest of Liberace. He does! It's not just a caricature either, although the likeness and portrayal of voice and movement is scarily accurate. There was no point in the movie where I wasn't simply seeing Liberace and not Michael Douglas.
Matt Damon is also excellent as Liberace's partner, Scott. Damon plays a much younger character than his actual age at the beginning of the movie and I found this to be totally believable. Scott's journey into emotional turmoil is at the heart of the story. It's not a simple story though. There are no straightforward answers as to which character is in the wrong or right. It's a story that makes you think, makes you question human nature.
Other notable players in the movie include Scott Bakula and Rob Lowe. Bakula plays a pal of Scott's and it's an understated role but one which the actor lives and breathes as if it's a reality. Lowe has strong comedic charm in this film as he plays a plastic surgeon who has had a little too much work done himself. It's his best role in years. Debbie Reynolds also pops up although she is quite unrecognisable as Liberace's mother.
Another notable aspect of this movie is the staging and scenery. Everything from the costumes to the sets looks mind blowingly amazing! It really looks like the production team worked extremely hard to create an authentic mis-en-scene. I also liked the fact that CGI manages to create a brilliant illusion of the lead actor playing piano so well!
I enjoyed this movie very much. The acting and writing are phenomenal and there are moments of intense gritty drama interspaced with humour and joy. It's a movie, though, that left me feeling slightly uneasy because of the way Liberace was portrayed. This is only because the movie focuses on Liberace's relationships and the troubled partnership with Scott in particular, rather than on the effect of his work or his legacy. It does leave you questioning aspects of Liberace's personal life and I can't help but feel a bit sad that the man worked quite hard to guard his privacy and keep it all on stage just to have this movie come out years after his death.
I would definitely recommend seeing this movie although I don't think it will be to everyone's taste. Certainly if you are a Liberace fan or like me have these abstract memories of a piano playing glitter-man then it's a revealing story that will interest you. I also think fans of the actors involved should not give up the chance to see these performances as they are some of the best in the business. Quite rightly the film has just been nominated for 15 Emmy Awards including acting nominations for Douglas, Damon and Bakula. Otherwise if you like movies that are original and daring, or which have obviously been created by a professional, talented team of people then this is also for you. This is the type of movie that once seen is unforgettable.
Director Steven Soderbergh recently spoke about how difficult it was to make his latest film, "Behind the Candelabra" as it was deemed "too gay" by most big film studios. Even with the success of "Brokeback Mountain" it would appear the big bosses didn't see this as a worthy investment opportunity. So thank heavens for Home Box Office (HBO) for giving Soderbergh his chance to tell the story of Liberace, one of the most celebrated, and highly paid musical figures in the 20th Century, known for his outrageously extravagant visuals on stage, his colourful lifestyle, as well as his ability to put on a cracking show and entertain.
But "Behind the Candelabra", as its name suggests, is about the wildly eccentric personal life of Liberace (Michael Douglas), his complicated relationship with the much younger Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), his driver, friend and lover. They first cross paths when Scott is invited to meet Liberace backstage at one of his sell-out concerts. Liberace takes an immediate liking to the young and handsome Scott and it's not long before they start a relationship, although given the cranky, unhappy state of Billy Leatherwood (Cheyenne Jackson), a former flame about to tossed aside for a younger, fresher new model, it doesn't bode well for Scott's future.
Having grown up in a modest foster home, the lavish gifts his boyfriend showers on him is certainly a drastic change, one Scott does not quite mind getting used to. There's plenty of flashy jewellery, most of them sparkling gold, there's a never-ending flow of champagne, the immaculately decorated, golden-plated mansion is quite simply out of this world, and in keeping with Liberace's famous saying "too much of a good thing is wonderful," everything seems to appear in excess. "Luxury" is a word too tame to describe their lifestyle, and the production design and the art department have truly created something extraordinary here, going completely overboard, as well they should, to show that both on and off the stage, there is very little difference in Liberace's taste for extravagance.
Their relationship is riddled with disturbing content as it progresses -as we soon discover Liberace's rather unhealthy obsession to turn his lover into an adopted son of some sorts, pushing Scott into plastic surgery so that they may share more physical resemblance. And so we're introduced to Dr John Startz (Rob Lowe), a hideously disfigured individual who has clearly had a taste of his own medicine a few too many times, with his uncomfortable looking squint, a sure by-product of many, many face-lifts, guaranteed to shock and make you think twice about plastic surgery in general.
In the lead role designed to be at the centre of attention at all times, Douglas is on excellent form, fully embracing the campy, extremely vibrant energy of the star, and with some incredible CGI work it looks as though it's actually Douglas who's playing away at the piano when in fact it's not. Always dressed in the most sparkling, brightest costumes, there are lots of laughs to be had in seeing a hilariously complex man, and yet there are tender moments of real warmth in scenes that show off Douglas' range and versatility. He shares his past stories with his lover, and particularly effective are the tender moments with his mother Frances Liberace (Debbie Reynolds), a materialistic widow unashamedly living off of her son's success and glory.
Nevertheless there isn't a lot to immediately like about Liberace in this film; never looking closely at the stage persona that impressed millions worldwide, just by looking at the film alone it's confusing as to why this man is such a beloved musical icon. A more balanced look would no doubt have further enriched his character, rather than very often coming across as nothing but a creepy, lonely old man with some serious psychological issues that are affecting those around him.
History does have its way of repeating itself it seems, as soon, passion between them sizzles and they both start looking elsewhere to fill their void of emptiness. For Liberace he takes a keen interest in a musical actor who shows promise (Boyd Holbrook), amongst other fresh-faced young men (he isn't afraid to downright flirt with his lover watching), whilst also suggesting that they start having an open relationship, given the promiscuous Liberace's love of visiting pornographic theatres for quick hook-ups. And with Scott, he turns to addictive drugs, provided by Dr. Startz. Although left with a less showy, stuck-in-the-shadows type role, Damon still turns his role into something more than a mere silent victim, the wronged party. There is nothing new about someone involved in that particular industry face a downward spiral due to dangerous drug addiction, but there is so much more to be said in the slow but gradual disintegration of their complicated relationship, one that is convincingly captured not only by the fur-wearing pianist, but also his long-suffering partner.
Meanwhile things take a turn for the worse when legal proceedings become involved which obviously signals the end of their arrangement. The film is unafraid of showing all the uncomfortable and ugly sides that ultimately led to this eventual breakdown - but there is also that consistent running theme of an affectionate bond between two people who did once share something significant for a prolonged period of time. That idea is what makes the final few scenes so effective and despite all the ups and downs, there is something to be said about love (as corny as that does sound) - and this kind of theme, in the wrong hands, could have turned into a drawn out, soapy sob fest. But Soderbergh keeps things simple and tight; with no unnecessary over-the-top plot developments.
It's a shame this missed out on its opportunity to screen at the cinemas in the States. Even with real potential to score some Oscar nominations and possibly a win for Douglas, the film is no longer eligible as it was shown as a television movie. So Douglas will have to settle for a possible trifecta of an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award, but given the theatrical push it's been getting around Europe, it has a chance to reach a wider public audience this deserves.