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Customer Review

147 of 156 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Furs, facelifts & poodles, 24 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Behind the Candelabra [DVD] (DVD)
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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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Sep 2013 23:38:23 BDT
Last edited by the author on 25 Sep 2013 23:39:26 BDT
Mabely says:
Thanks for a very comprehensive review do you do it for a living?I have been waiting for this to be available on Love Film but see it's not out yet so will preempt by buying it on the strength of your review I was actually fortunate to go to see Liberace in Las Vegas at the L A Hilton and what a performer!! we had seats on a long table and were two up from the stage you really could see the diamonds sparkle he said have a good look GIRLS after all you helped buy them what a showman he will never be equaled Mabel Dyas

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Sep 2013 09:20:20 BDT
KaleHawkwood says:
Thank you, Mabely. He must have been quite something to see (and hear too). I don`t do this for a living, no, though I sometimes wish I had. Mostly I enjoy evangelising for music, films, books etc I love, rather than writing one-star reviews - though I`ve done one or two of them as well.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 May 2014 12:57:45 BDT
Penny B says:
Yes - I must agree with your correspondent: you are a wonderful reviewer and, if you don't do it for a living, you ought to!! Comprehensive, insightful, exciting, inspiring writing. Thank you for taking the time, GlynLuke - and please let's have some more of your opinions.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 May 2014 13:38:25 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 May 2015 17:39:54 BDT
KaleHawkwood says:
Thank you so much, Penny. I`ve always written, though never as a reviewer and never professionally (see above comment). Feel free to read some of my other 900-odd reviews* - and, if you like, leave a few Yes votes too, while you`re about it!

* Now well over 1,100!

Posted on 25 May 2014 00:23:10 BDT
I'd also like to say that your review was very good.

But I will say that, for me, there's no maybe about Rob Lowe's performance - he should be VERY proud of his performance; 'odd', yes, but brilliant. There are just so many moments in this film where an actor will give meaning to even small movements or the way they interact with other characters non-verbally. And what I love about Lowe's performance is not just how he ridiculously he plays it but also how Scott and 'Lee' so readily believe in his character.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 May 2014 10:51:35 BDT
KaleHawkwood says:
Cheers, Paul. In fact, Rob Lowe can do no wrong for me since The West Wing, nor can anyone involved in that best of all TV series.
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