Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Running Time: 118 mins
Behind The Candelabra is an American film about the intimate relationship between legendary entertainer Liberace and his young muse, Scott Thorson.
A really nice biopic that takes a heartfelt and caring look at an extravagant life, Behind The Candelabra is absolutely worth your time to learn more about the real Liberace. With two fantastic lead performances, a strong screenplay and gorgeous production design, it’s a gripping film that might even just tug at your heartstrings.
Thinking about it, it could have been so easy to make a Liberace biopic that celebrated the flamboyant lifestyle of the entertainer, with a dizzying energy similar to the Elton John biopic Rocketman. However, what’s most notable about Behind The Candelabra is just how understated it is, and in the midst of gold-plated mansions and extravagant stage performances, that really says something.
There’s a lot that makes this film work so well as an understated and intimate drama, but it’s the lead performance from Michael Douglas that really steals the show.
Not only an impressive portrayal of Liberace himself, with the same energy and likability all the way through, Douglas’ performance is brilliantly honest and measured, as he manages to portray Liberace’s flamboyant and energetic exterior without going over the top, and without letting the entertainer’s true interior getting lost.
In that, there is the fun factor of spending two hours with an effortlessly lovable person, but more impressive is the way in which Douglas is able to tap into a very heartfelt and touching portrayal of a man who, despite his larger than life persona, was at heart a very caring and intimate individual.
Alongside Douglas stars Matt Damon as Liberace’s young muse, Scott Thorson. In contrast to Liberace’s immense likability, Thorson evolves into a rather unlikable character, corrupted by a life of fame and excess. Damon isn’t perhaps as unlikable as the character wants, but he contrasts Douglas’ understated performance with an energetic and larger-than-life turn, almost flipping your initial expectations of the two men.
Their relationship is a rollercoaster of a story, but with performances that really nail down the essence of both men, Behind The Candelabra proves a gripping insight into their life together, and one with such emotionally resonant moments that it may even tug at your heartstrings a little.
On that note, however, I would have liked to see a little more insight into the life and mind of Liberace, rather than a story played out almost entirely from the view of Thorson. Particularly in the film’s latter act, though it gives a good perspective on the personal impact of fame and excess, I was missing Liberace’s presence more than anything.
Saying that, though, Behind The Candelabra is still a fantastic biopic. Enjoyable and insightful all the way through, it’s absolutely worth your while, but it’s most impressive in the way that it takes a legendarily extravagant performer and tells his story in honest and understated fashion. So, that’s why I’m giving the film a 7.7 overall.