The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Short Stories and More…

Review: Behind the Candelabra

This post contains spoilers

It’s the movie that is “too gay for Hollywood”; the story of Scott Thorson’s relationship with Liberace in the late 70s and early 80s.

The backstory to this film is legendary. All the major Hollywood studios turned it down for being “too gay” so eventually it was screened on HBO. During the premiere, the ratings were impressive but even more impressive during the encore screening. How does a film with three big names become relegated to a made-for-TV biopic?

In lesser hands, this biopic may indeed be too gay, but not with Steven Soderbergh at the helm. Admittedly, the film does start very kitsch and campy, but hey, it’s about Liberace, Mr Showmanship himself. Once you ignore 42 year old Matt Damon playing a 17 year old and how much fun the lead actors obviously had in the kissing scenes, the film becomes so much more than “too gay for Hollywood”.

Based on Thorson’s memoir of his time with Liberace, this film is everything you’d expect. It is chock full of opulence without arrogance. Michael Douglas portrays Liberace with care. In the beginning, it seems as though the performances are strained; they’re playing real people and it seems to get the better of them. As the film progresses, you completely forget that these are two straight men playing gay lovers. Even as a huge Matt Damon fan, I had to giggle at some of his costumes (hello, sequined G-string) but hey, that’s what I’d expect in a glimpse of Liberace’s life.

Perhaps the details are really what makes the movie. The scene where Liberace lay dying is shocking. I assume CGI was used to get that effect but boy, is it ever effective. It’s shocking, it’s blunt, it’s in-your-face. In comparison, Matt’s face post-surgery is obviously fake and it’s hard to ignore, but I suppose that’s the point. In places, Liberace gets creepy, but this is unsurprising to anyone who has read anything about him (after his death, that is. Prior to his death, Liberace would sue anyone who claimed his was gay).

Behind the Candelabra is a story about power, love, friendship, wealth and what happens when it goes awry. By the final shot, you’ll remember the story and not the flaws.

7.5 out of 10 popcorns. And go find some Liberace clips on YouTube.


June 6, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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