johnlink ranks BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013)

I had heard of this Liberace biopic, but didn’t know much about it other than the paring of Michael Douglas as the musician and Matt Damon as the lover who is four decades younger. It happened to start when I turned on the TV last night and I intended to see how it was and move on. The movie pulled me in, and I ended up watching the entire thing. That can’t be a bad sign, right?


I watched BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013) on 5.27.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

I’ve heard people say that Micheal Douglas doesn’t stretch for this movie. I have to disagree. While the gravely voice is still there, he knocks it up a couple of octaves to create a sound he has never produced in his career. Sure you can recognize it as Michael Douglas, but that doesn’t mean he’s not stretching. His mannerisms and movements are unlike anything he’s done. If anything, it is Matt Damon who plays it down the middle in terms of creating character as Scott. All of that said, these are two powerful performances from a couple of powerhouse actors. The relationship they build feels real, and it is a true source of energy for the film.

Where this movie fails is in its script. Too much dialogue sounds like clunky exposition as Liberace tells facts from his life like he is reading from his own biography. This movie is at its best when Liberace and Scott are in the bedroom or in the tub playing intimate. It feels dangerous because we know this relationship is doomed, even as they fall in love. Too many red flags, too many years between them, too many external forces. Liberace is not someone to settle down, as much as he wants to be. He has too many layers of safety built into his life which make it all too easy to cut ties when he is done. Douglas plays that vulnerability amazingly well. His Liberace is the antithesis of Gordon  Gekko in most every way except for their tenacity in getting what they want (even if those wants are entirely different). Damon’s Scott falls into drug addiction as a result of the desire to please his man. The pathos in the relationship is how much Scott gives up to satisfy Liberace and how little he gets in return. The connection and chemistry between the two actors couldn’t be better.

The last act of this movie doesn’t quite live up the first hour and a half. After the relationship falls apart we are rushed through many years without the careful dedication taken to the first several. I rarely say this about a movie, but this is one that could have been a good twenty minutes longer and been much better.

It looks amazing. Steven Soderbergh directs this in a much more traditional way than his normal style. Usually the editing is a character in his movies, working hard to create an atmosphere. Here, the film plays in a straight-forward way. The sets, costumes, and characters are so full of flourish that the camerawork hardly needs to be eccentric. The costumes are spectacular, as one would expect, and much of the movie used Liberace’s actual mansion as a filming location.

The story goes that Soderbergh had trouble getting this film made because it was ‘too gay’. It took HBO to step in to get the thing put on film. Hopefully that doesn’t prevent people from getting to see it. While the script could be better, this is a film worth watching for its characters and performances.





~ by johnlink00 on May 28, 2013.

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