Behind the Candelabra

Posted: February 11, 2014 in Biopic, Drama
Tags: ,

I would not want to be the person shopping around a serious script in Hollywood about the life of the famous pianist Liberace. It would be the toughest of sells to a culture that would likely feel the material is too dry and the demand too little. A slightly campier script, with luxurious set design and intimate portrayals of characters the public wouldn’t likely know about is what I’d like to get my hands on. The story of Liberace is stranger than fiction and dryer, more serious material could’ve corrupted its overall goals and ambitions. The film with the campier script, luxurious set designs, and intimate portrayals is Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra, a wonderful, limitless look at the life of Liberace, an enigma in every sense of the word. In addition to playing many sold-out shows, the man had a lovelife like no other at the time, meeting and becoming fast friends with Scott Thorson, an aspiring veterinarian who was quickly made his lover. Thorson seemed to have a genuine understanding of the loneliness and lack of friendship Liberace had and provided him with great talks, great compassion. The relationship, however, resulted in drug addiction, intense plastic surgery, lies, mistrust, and ended with a lawsuit. Soderbergh and writer Richard LaGravenese don’t hesitate to explore this and make it one of the deepest focuses in the picture. Liberace is played by Michael Douglas in one of the bravest roles of his career. Douglas is an actor who is never conventional with his role choice. The same man who played a common-man pushed off a cliff of sanity, an executive victim to a consuming, real-life game, and a worried father of a drug-addicted daughter is the same man playing a middle-aged, flamboyant pianist with a love for wonder, music, and men. The diversity in role choice is stunning. Matt Damon appears at his youngest as Liberace’s lover Scott, in an equally conflicted, complex performance. Damon fills the shoes of the role beautifully and effectively, giving off much in the way of creative energy and heart as he shows just how stressed and torn Thorson must’ve been in a relationship with someone who truly loved and understood him but wanted to manipulate him. Supporting performances from Rob Lowe as Liberace’s doctor, prescribing medicines to both him and Thorson and Dan Aykroyd as his manager are terrific and often are seen providing strong comic relief. The cinematography and atmosphere that Behind the Candelabra does is truly a feature worth nothing. It may not be as excessive as Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby – I don’t expect anything of the next two years to be on par with that film – but rarely has a ao called TV movie achieved such phenomenally vibrant and luscious standards. The only thing that could make it better is Soderbergh proving he knows how to work with it and he most certainly does.

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