Steven Soderbergh said he was planning to quit directing movies after Side Effects, but then along comes the mostly engaging Behind the Candelabra, although it’s a film which he’s been planning to make for some time.
Liberace is a curious person to make a movie about because it’s not as if his legacy has lived on in popular entertainment circles since he died in 1987. His time is very much of the ’60s and ’70s when he played to huge packed-out venues and even had his own TV show. And it’s some time into the latter decade when we join “Mr Showmanship”, played by Michael Douglas in one of his best performances in a long time, camping it up perfectly as he attracts adoration from the public at large, taking to the stage on the Las Vegas strip in 1977.
Bob Black (Scott Bakula) introduces Liberace to Scott Thorson (Matt Damon, having toned up to play his 18-year-old lover), a young lad who works with animals and endears himself to the performer by saying he can obtain some medicine for his poodle who suffers from a condition that’s making the dog go blind. As their relationship blossoms, ‘Lee’ invites Scott into his Vegas pad so he can bitch about his life in general. Matt Damon provides good support as young Scott, but this is Douglas’ movie.
Along the way, you know dark days aren’t far away. You see the terrible truths about plastic surgery, as Liberace goes for a facelift, along with a fantastic performance from Rob Lowe as surgeon Dr. Jack Startz, if a cameo by comparison; as well as Scott being warned that he can be replaced at any time by a younger model, so you’re just waiting for that to happen.
And while two hours to cover 10 years of someone’s life may not seem like a long time, there are parts where it tends to drag… if you’ll pardon the expression.
Running time: 119 minutes
Released: June 7th 2013
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Producers: Susan Ekins, Gregory Jacobs and Michael Polaire
Screenplay: Richard LaGravenese (based on the book by Scott Thorson and Alex Thorleifson)
Music: Marvin Hamlisch
Liberace: Michael Douglas
Scott Thorson: Matt Damon
Seymour Heller: Dan Aykroyd
Bob Black: Scott Bakula
Frances Liberace: Debbie Reynolds
Dr. Jack Startz: Rob Lowe
Billy Leatherwood: Cheyenne Jackson
Rose Carracappa: Jane Morris
Joe Carracappa: Garrett M. Brown
Carlucci: Bruce Ramsay
Cary James: Boyd Holbrook
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.