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3.9 out of 5 stars
Behind The Candelabra (Blu-Ray) (Import) Douglas; Damon
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138 of 147 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 June 2013
What an unexpectedly pleasing, touching movie.
When I first heard Michael Douglas had been cast as arch showman Liberace (someone I remember on TV from my youth) I thought what inspired casting it was. What I didn`t suspect was just how moving and believable an impression of the man he would give.
Liberace was as camp as they come, and a very closeted gay man in an America not quite ready to embrace such a concept, particularly someone whose persona was that of an unthreatening, cosy, mildly outrageous middle-of-the-road entertainer. Things evidently haven`t come that far, as director Steven Soderbergh couldn`t get funding from the studios for a feature film (too overtly gay, apparently!) so his project became a TV movie, though you`d never know it, such is the lustre of the finished film he managed to make, despite the puerile queasiness of American sensibilities even now.
What is so effective about Douglas`s considered performance is that, rather than overplay his hand, making an already flamboyant, often flippant man into a vapid caricature - which is what I`d feared - he in fact underplays, to great effect, leaving the script, sets, costumes - oh, the costumes! - to go OTT, while he allows us to see the real man `behind the candelabra`. It`s an intelligent decision, which repays great dividends.
I`ve rarely seen Douglas so relaxed in a role. Like his dad, he`s quite an intense actor, and can be a showy one, so the fact that he reins it in here is to be applauded.
Matt Damon, as his younger lover Scott Thorson, on whose memoir the film is based, is a revelation. We are used to seeing Damon in buttoned-up, self-contained, rather unsmiling roles - from Ripley to Bourne - but here he lets rip, and then some! With long floppy hair and a bod in disgustingly fine fettle, he plays the part with exactly the right combination of youthful brio and wounded innocence. He can be a witty actor, and he uses his propensity for dry wit here, though mostly he is either wide-eyed, drugged up, or livid at the latest example of his lover-daddy`s perceived selfishness. It`s a bravura piece of acting from this invariably superb actor.
Rob Lowe...well, what can I say? Inspirational casting, once more. He plays a droopy-eyed plastic surgeon with dodgy teeth, and seems to be permanently either stoned or in some otherwise beatific state. It is one of the oddest performances in a film I`ve seen for some time, and I`m undecided whether Lowe should be proud or thoroughly ashamed of himself. (On balance, proud.)
Dan Aykroyd is barely recognisable as Liberace`s long-suffering manager, and turns in a terrific, credible performance, while none other than Debbie Reynolds is completely unrecognisable as Liberace`s mother: Mrs Liberace, for that was indeed his real surname.
By the end it would take a hard heart not to be moved, and I was, both by Liberace and his lonely, sad demise, and by Douglas`s performance.
I wouldn`t go so far as to call this a great movie, but it`s so much better than anyone had any right to expect it to be.
An appropriate quote (surprisingly not used in the film) from the man himself:

`Gee, you`ve been such a wonderful audience that I don`t like to take your money. But I will!`

Classy. Like this movie.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
It's hard to imagine super-spy Jason Bourne in a sparkly thong, throwing a hissy-fit at his older male lover. Perhaps that's why Matt Damon's performance has got him quite a lot of praise for his portrayal of the young man (Scott Thorson) who lived (and loved) Hollywood icon Liberace.
Michael Douglas too is on fine form as the man himself, displaying the voice and the mannerisms of the flamboyant entertainer to a tee.

It's a `rise and fall' tale of love that was probably doomed from the start. It's based on the `kiss and tell' book that Thorson wrote once Liberace had died, so we only have his word on it that this is the `truth.' But, truth or not, it's an entertaining piece of tragic drama that allows both him and Douglas to put in some stellar performances.

It probably isn't for everyone. If you look at internet message boards, you'll see a fair few people who found it `overly gay' in subject matter. However, if that sort of thing offends you, you really shouldn't even be considering watching a semi-biopic about a gay couple's life.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
As others have said, there is something very good about the tone Steven Soderbergh achieves in this film. The first part is particularly enjoyable, I felt, when the effect of the costumes and general flamboyancy matched the upbeat story of Liberace meeting Scott Thorson, the young man who would become his lover and general all-round assistant. As things go on and cracks begin to appear in the relationship, it is less entertaining, but always interesting, and even when things are desperate it never becomes hollow, with Scott's 'bad behaviour' always kept within the limits of his character - this is a man who, however hurt, can only go so far in the direction of unpleasantness. The way this is kept in view even at the most hysterical moments is very well handled. Michael Douglas is excellent and gives a brave performance as Liberace, making the showman appear human but not glossing over the less good sides of his personality. He has the necessary charisma to make him a magnet to the camera, not just by his clothes, in fact he is never upstaged by them! But for me the film gets its heart from the Matt Damon role. I thought he brought this rather lost character stunningly to life, and the film fills us in very well on his foster home background, his naivety and his neediness. Towards the end you are wondering whether he has been more loved or abused in the relationship, where in other hands it might unquestionably seem the latter, but this is related to the essential goodness of this man. Furthermore Damon is so lovely in the opening part of the film, I was reminded of how perfect his looks really are, and here he is quite beefed up. To see Damon in this role is quite something! Then he undergoes facelifts at the wishes of Liberace, who wants to make him look more like himself - shades of Vertigo with a new twist - and his problems start at this point - not that hard to understand, really. As a balancing act between these two men and these various other poles - not least of which is the intimate feel the whole thing has in spite of the onstage part and the larger-than-life persona, the film really succeeds very well.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2013
This is a lovely, endearing, and thoroughly well-meaning film that ranks amongst the best I've seen this year. For me, it was a perfect antidote to the loud, angry, fight-fests that have been plaguing our multiplexes lately (I saw it directly after Man of Steel), and I quickly felt soothed by the gentle pacing and dialogue-based delights of this film. Two hours of people talking about genuine human feelings- how wonderful!

The plot concerns the 6 year relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas, nearly unrecognisable), the well known pianist/entertainer/comedian and the much younger aspiring vet Scott Thorson (Matt Damon, in a quiet but very effective role). The film is unclear as to Scott's age (it could be anywhere between 25 and 35), but in real life Scott was only 17. We see their relationship nearly in full, from the moment they met to the moment they parted, and their tender, final moments, and as a result the film gives off the imitable and wonderfully rewarding feeling of having to got to know two lovely, flawed, but basically good people. Liberace is loud, showy, very insecure, and, we sense, deeply missing something in his life- Scott is quieter, ready to listen, good of heart, and also deeply missing something in his life. They are a perfect match for each other.

The primary pleasure of this film, as you might have gathered, is simply getting to know both of these people, and the film takes great steps to ensure that neither one of the pair is focussed on in particular, and both are given equal time and care (despite being called Behind the Candelabra, which hints at a Liberace-oriented biopic)- the film begins with Scott, and continues that way for about fifteen minutes, but when Liberace is introduced, we do indeed go "behind the candelabra", seeing Liberace behind the piano, something audiences of the time would never see. Soon, Scott has also gone behind the candelabra with Liberace, and how the two play off against each other make for small scale, lovely cinematic fireworks.

There is also a small, dark vein of comedy under this film, as the film dissects, in its own way, celebrity culture and the plastic surgery fixation- Rob Lowe's surgeon being a grotesquely comic creation- all while never losing focus of the central relationship.

There is a single image in this film, contained in one scene, which defines why I loved it so much. It occurs about a third of the way through, and it is an image of Liberace and Scott sat next to each other on a sofa, talking about something or other, Scott's legs in Liberace's lap, Liberace gently rubbing Scott's calf. It was the moment at which I fell in love with the film, the gentle unforced intimacy of the scene perfectly conveying the nature of any true, meaningful relationship.

See this film if you care about human beings. It's an absolute treat, and you'll come away feeling profoundly, quietly touched.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 27 February 2014
The bottom line is that Douglas and Damon cannot do camp convincingly. It comes across like comedy camp from low quality sitcoms.
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on 24 June 2015
Hugely entertaining and well acted - another reviewer said that this was a "marmite" film which I can understand. There were a couple of scenes where I had to look away but quite honestly I found virtually the whole film a delight. I don't know if the make-up people won an Oscar but they deserve one. The way the character's faces change with time (and surgery) is quite hilarious. It takes a close look at a flawed character (Michael Douglas as Liberace) and you see it projected onto Matt Damon, his lover and companion. Ordinarily this is not my kind of film. But these are two of my favorite actors and so I gave it a chance and it was a blast. If you like either of these two actors (or Rob Lowe for that matter) give this film a try. You will either love it or hate it. Definitely worth a gamble. And it makes a good change from the average mind numbing shoot em up movies that litter our screens.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2014
Just didn't engage me at all. Bad hair, badly shot, shame as I was looking forward to it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 October 2014
An unexpected delight. Take away the glitz and the glamour, the drugs and the showbiz and you're left with a simple story about love, its dawning, blooming, and passing. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are perfect in their roles.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2015
Not a film I found particularly absorbing as it is very clearly one sided. However the acting is fantastic and the script shpws a moving understanding of the times and the men. Michael Douglas astounded me, I had to look twice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2013
I just could not equate this film with actors to the real live Liberace which is preferable - there are however some insights in this documentary that I did not know about and from that point of view found it interesting.
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