Style that still lets the bride shine...
Behind the candelabra
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
CAST: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula and Rob Lowe
CLASSIFICATION: 16 LSD
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)
‘Awesome,” “brilliant,” and “amazing” are the words many reviewers have used to describe Steven Soderbergh’s latest – and last, if you believe him – film. But this reviewer can’t agree.
At best, the movie that goes behind the candelabra and brings Liberace and Scott Thorson’s relationship to the forefront, is, um, interesting.
As one would expect from a biopic about a man whose outfits, hair and accessories glittered as if he used Soul-Glo (spray-on hair grease) on everything, there is a lot of bling.
But all that glitters is not gold is what Thorson, who is played amusingly by a super-buff (yes, bulkier than all the Bournes combined) Matt Damon, quickly finds out after meeting Liberace (Michael Douglas) backstage after an impressive show that includes Liberace playing the fastest boogie woogie – left-handed.
Later, Thorson and his boyfriend meet the much older pianist at his palatial residence and instead of turning and running for the hills because of all the kitsch furniture, Thorson – an animal trainer who also worked for a vet – cures Liberace’s ailing dog and subsequently becomes the celebrated composer’s pet project.
Behind The Candelabra (which recently won three Emmys because it screened as a TV movie in the US) focuses on the relationship which blossoms before it spectacularly bursts into flames thanks to the pair’s difference in opinion when it comes to sex, drugs and piano music. Oh, and plastic surgery.
Rob Lowe is Dr Jack Startz, the hilarious surgeon who has but one expression. Like Douglas, Lowe wears tongue-in-cheek very well throughout the movie. It’s pleasing to watch Douglas as the charmer who refuses to age.
What’s odd is the absence of familiarity between Liberace and Thorson, even years after they are a couple. Oh, wait, I didn’t mention that it’s a same-sex relationship? Well, Soderbergh makes sure he shows and tells this titbit in Jacuzzi scenes. Over and over and over and over again.
Instead of getting a glimpse of lovers behind closed doors – one that includes a man who sued (and won) a tabloid for inferring that he was gay – as a relationship, there seems to be what comes off as a fetishisation of soap suds on buttocks. And for a movie that is about a composer, there isn’t a huge emphasis on the music, and it isn’t used as a tool of nostalgia either.
Other than that, it’s nice to see classic Sixties on the silver screen – the fashion sense, the gaudy jewellery Liberace gives as gifts and the cinematography. Even though the film is based on Thorson’s book of the same title, he isn’t painted as a saint. And while I may not believe that Soderbergh’s supposed swansong is brilliant, it is worth a watch.
If you liked Liberace at all then you may enjoy this.