Monthly archives "June 2013"

EIFF 2013 Winners announced

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The winners of this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival awards have been announced.

The Award for Best Film in the International Competition was presented to Mahdi Fleifel’s A World Not Ours.

The jury said: “The International Jury loved this film’s warm regard for the people at the heart of the film. A difficult subject was handled with confidence and humour. We hope that many more people get the opportunity to see A World Not Ours.”

Mahdi Fleifel said: “I am immensely grateful to the programmers at the EIFF for inviting my film. I have lived, studied and worked in the UK for 13 years, but I’ve never managed to screen any of my work at a single British film event – not even my short films which were pretty successful internationally. Winning the prize in Britain’s No. 1 Film Festival is too good to be true. I hope this will help bring our film to a wider audience in the UK and I would like to thank the jury for this wonderful honour.”

The jury also gave a special mention to Elias Giannakakis’ Joy. The citation read: “The Jury would like to make special mention of Elias Giannakakis’ unique character study in Joy and an outstanding performance by Amalia Moutousi.”

The Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film went to Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s Leviathan.

The winner was chosen by the Michael Powell Jury, chaired by Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf and including actor and director Kevin McKidd and film critic Derek Malcolm. The jury described the film “as an original and imaginative documentary which observes the brutal routine of deep sea fishing in a way which completely immerses the watcher in its story.”

Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel said: “We are totally bowled over by the news of this award. All our films have been rejected by every British film festival to date, so it is all the more moving for us! We also admire in so many ways the work of this jury, which makes this award especially meaningful to us both. It also gives us the courage and conviction to continue to keep pushing at the envelope – of cinema, of documentary, of art.”

The jury awarded a special commendation to Paul Wright’s For Those In Peril “for its passionate portrait of a young Scots survivor of a tragedy at sea.”

The Award for Best Performance in a British Feature Film was shared by Jamie Blackley and Toby Regbo for their performances as the dysfunctional schoolboys in uwantme2killhim? The performance awards were voted for by the Michael Powell Award Competition Jury.

Jamie Blackley said: “I felt lucky enough to hear that two films I was in had been selected for the EIFF, so to then win this award is a wonderful shock that I wasn’t expecting and I am proud to share it with Toby. I’d like to thank Andrew Douglas and the cast and crew for making the experience so special for me and to EIFF for making me feel so welcome.”

Co-star Toby Regbo added: “I’m absolutely over the moon. Making this film was so positive: a really interesting story, a great director and a superb actor to work opposite, what more could you want really? I’d like to say thank you to the EIFF for supporting British independent film and young actors.”

Reinstated in 2013 after a two-year absence, The Audience Award, supported by Sainsbury’s Bank, went to Fire in the Night, directed by Anthony Wonke for his deeply moving documentary detailing the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea. The film, which received its World Premiere at the Festival, skilfully combines archival footage, audio recordings and interviews with some of the 61 survivors of the disaster, some of whom are interviewed for the very first time.
Voted for by cinema-goers attending public screenings.

Anthony Wonke said: “It’s 25 years ago this July that Piper Alpha exploded and sunk into the North Sea and we hope that with this film the memory of that fateful night that affected so many lives will act as a suitable remembrance. I’d like to thank everyone who voted for Fire in the Night, it really does mean an awful lot to everyone involved especially all the men who took part in the film. I know that they will be incredibly touched and thankful that the public engaged with this film and their story in such a positive way.”

EIFF Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara said: “The Audience Award, which we reinstated this year after a two-year hiatus, is not only one of the most significant of EIFF’s initiatives designed to engage audiences with cinema, it’s also one of the most fun. We’re delighted by the enthusiasm shown by our audience members who took part in choosing this award, and we’re grateful for the support and commitment of Sainsbury’s Bank.”

GHL by Lotte Schreiber won The Award for Best Short Film in the shorts category. The prize was one of three awards bestowed by the Short Film Competition Jury, which included International Film Festival Rotterdam programmer Inge de Leeuw (chair), film critic Christoph Huber and independent film programmer Ricardo Matos Cabo.

The jury citation read: “The jury unanimously gives this prize for Best Short Film to a visually and rhythmically precise architectural study that doubles as a portrait of current social changes with the ghost of capitalism haunting the space of a popular landmark of communal recreation erected as a socialist utopia in Vienna.

Lotte Schreiber said: “I am very proud to receive this amazing award from this fantastic film festival, which is the most exciting one I’ve ever received! I’m proud of my little team and I want to thank them all for their precious contribution to this little movie: especially Johannes Hammel, who did the breathtaking camerawork and Michael Krassnitzer for his perfect low-key acting. This award makes me sure to keep on filmmaking, even under extremely tough economic circumstances, which will probably become even tougher for all of us independent filmmakers in the next years. But it’s worth carrying on! I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Festival Programme Committee who has selected the Film to be part of the International Competition at EIFF and likewise to the Short Film jury members, who have put their whole confidence into this little Viennese movie.”

The Award for Creative Innovation in a Short Film, given for the first time this year, was awarded to Doll Parts by Muzi Quawson, as voted for by the Shorts Jury.

Another newly introduced award within the shorts category, The Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to a Short Film, which celebrates imaginative and innovative work in short cinema, was awarded to Josh Gibson as Director of Photography of Light Plate, which he also directed.

The jury citation read: “The prize for outstanding contribution to a short film goes to the camerawork of a magical landscape study, capturing a day in the Tuscan countryside with a series of subtle, imaginative and mesmerizingly textured images forged with careful attention to the possibilities and beauty of 35mm films.”

Josh Gibson said: “I am honoured and humbled to receive this award and to be recognized along with this small, personal film at such a prestigious international film festival, brimming with work by talented people that I have admired for a long time. Unlike feature films, short films are delicate creatures that owe much to the programming. In shorts programmes the individual films reverberate against one another, sometimes changing fundamentally depending upon the other pieces in the programme. I especially want to thank the EIFF programmers for finding a place for Light Plate where its particular point of view and visual preoccupations could be acknowledged and admired.”

As voted for by the audience, The McLaren Award for Best New British Animation, supported by the British Council, went to Marilyn Myller by director Mikey Please and co-animator Dan Ojari.

Mikey Please said: “The team and I are absolutely thrilled to receive the prestigious McLaren Award. We hope that our gonzo, the-rules-are-there-to-break-them approach to filmmaking was very much in a spirit that would have made Norman proud. This was Marilyn’s World premiere, so naturally we were very nervous about how she’d be received. To have the warm welcome of an audience vote is wonderful, the best result we could have possibly hoped for.”

The Student Critics Jury Award, supported by Morag and James Anderson, was awarded to Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari by Alexey Fedorchenko.

The jury citation read: “Bearing in mind what the Artistic Director said, film is reality and also something more. A witty, perceptive and beautiful celebration of folk mythologies”.

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EIFF: Day 6

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The Conjuring ****

USA/Director James Wan/112 mins

Based on true events, James Wan’s 2013 horror movie tells the story of a family that finds their house tormented by evil spirits. In an attempt to get rid of the demons, the family calls on psychic investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) to help them.

The sound is excellent, particularly the creaking and banging sounds made by the spirits at regular intervals throughout the film. Combined with the use of a handheld camera that follows the characters through the house, this creates a scary atmosphere that will have the audience holding onto their seats.

“The Conjuring” has well developed characters and relationships between the Warren and Perron families feature heavily throughout the movie. This adds a level of depth that is rarely seen in horror films.

In terms of acting, Lili Taylor stands out in her role as a mother possessed by demons Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga also give great performances as the couple who arrive to investigate while Joey King is enjoyable to watch as Christine, the child who is most affected by the spirits’ presence.

With its old school scary movie theme, real life basis and top class cinematography, “The Conjuring” is a must see for any horror fan.

I Am Breathing ***
UK/Directors Emma Davie and Morgan McKinnon/73 mins

“I Am Breathing” documents the final days of Neil Platt, a young man suffering from Motor Neurone Disease. Narrated by Neil himself and featuring interviews with his friends and family, the documentary gives an intimate view of the months leading to his death.

While the subject matter is interesting, the film tells the audience very little about the actual illness. There is very little explanation of what Motor Neurone Disease is and no appearances from health professionals.

The film works well as a video blog, however Neil’s dialogue gives the viewer only snippets of information about his life and diagnosis and is broken up by random scenes including country roads and sunsets.

Overall, “I Am Breathing” is disappointing. While the audience gets to know Neil as a person, the lack of focus on the subject matter does very little to raise public awareness of Motor Neurone Disease.

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Newsreel (W/e 23 June 2013)

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Ryan Reynolds leaves the Highlander reboot.

 

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For has been put back nearly a year.

 

Nowhere Boy’s Sam Taylor-Johnson is to direct the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.

 

William Fichtner confirms he Is playing Shredder in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Reboot.

 

Anna Kendrick will play Cinderella in Disney’s Into The Woods.

 

Monster’s University scares away the competition at the U.S. box-office.

 

R.I.P. James Gandolfini

EIFF: Day 5

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We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks ****
USA/Director Alex Gibney/130 mins

 

“We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks” tells the story of Australian hacker Julian Assange’s website that was designed to expose classified information to the public.

 

Featuring one to one interviews with those involved in Wikileaks directly or otherwise, the documentary gives a detailed and unbiased account of the website’s lifespan.

 

While Assange initially appears to have good intentions, his practices become more corrupt over time and almost go full circle in terms of sharing and withholding information.

 

Other parties involved range from computer hackers to respected journalists. While some appear to have a genuine interest in exposing corrupt practices, others are clearly in it for personal gain. This is particularly apparent when hacker Adrian Lamo befriends an information source then turns him in.

 

The film is nicely structured and flows well. At 130 minutes it is slightly long but a lot of information is covered in that time and most of it is important to the story.

 

Overall, the documentary is enjoyable and informative. While it could have been shortened slightly, it is well written and answers all the audience’s questions.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

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EIFF: Day 4

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Monsters University ****
USA/Director Dan Scanlon/110 mins

 

A direct prequel to the original “Monsters Inc”, the movie tells the story of how Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) met and came to work in the factory.

 

The film begins when Mike (Crystal) visits the factory on a school trip and decides he wants to become a scarer. Years later, Mike begins studying at Monsters University where he meets Sully (Goodman), a monster with an established family history.

 

The story is enjoyable and relates to the original while still providing a good level of suspense to the audience. Throughout the movie, Mike and Sully experience the highs and lows of University life and have a turbulent relationship prior to joining forces.

 

Both Goodman and Crystal give great performances as the lead characters. The supporting cast includes Steve Buschemi as Randy and Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble, both of whom also perform to a high standard.

 

The animation is top class and looks great in 3D. The soundtrack is also fun and appropriate to the film.

 

While “Monsters University” is not as good as the original, it is an entertaining and fun movie that ties things up nicely.

 

Old Stock ***
Canada/Director James Genn/85 mins

 

Stock Burton (Noah Reid) is a young man who has spent the last 2 years in a retirement home following traumatic events. At the beginning of the movie he is asked to leave the residence, forcing him to face his demons.

 

Throughout the film, Stock tries to get his life back on track by getting a job, dating dance teacher Patti (Melanie Leishman) and trying to fix the issues from his past. While it doesn’t flow particularly well, the story has a reasonable amount of depth and doesn’t reveal everything right away.

 

There is also a subplot involving his grandparents’ relationship which adds some comedy to the story, particularly the antics of Stock’s grandfather Harold (Danny Wells).

 

The actors all give reasonably good performances, the highlight being Gene Mack as comic pensioner Wendel. The other residents of the retirement home are also entertaining and give a realistic portrayal of their generation.

 

While the story is poorly structured and does not really go anywhere, “Old Stock” is a pleasant movie to watch.

 

Oh Boy ***
Germany/Director Jan Ole Gerster/83 mins

 

Starring Tom Schilling as the lead character, “Oh Boy” tells the story of Niko Fischer, a young man who has dropped out of University and is drifting through life in Berlin.

 

The film is shot in black and white and is in German with English subtitles. This gives it a somewhat “arthouse” feel which appears promising.

 

Throughout the movie, Niko comes into contact with a variety of people including his father, an actor friend and a girl he went to school with. While the interactions would be interesting if there was a link between them, they seem rather pointless as each character appears once and is never mentioned again.

 

The story lacks structure and doesn’t go anywhere. Niko drifts in and out of situations with no explanation. This creates plot holes and leaves the viewer questioning why each scene is included. The ending is also disappointing as nothing gets tied up and Niko is no further forward.

 

While “Oh Boy” is nicely shot and reasonably pleasant to watch, the story is all over the place and has too many loose ends.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

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EIFF: Day 3

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The Great Hip Hop Hoax ****
UK/Director Jeanie Finlay/88 mins

 

Jeanie Finlay’s documentary tells the story of Billy and Gavin, two young rappers from Arbroath who create personas to help secure a record deal. The film follows their journey from their life back home to their success as rappers and their eventual decline.

 

Looking back on the footage from Billy and Gavin’s career, viewers are likely to wonder how they fooled so many people. Neither had their backstories worked out prior to making their decision, resulting in inconsistencies.

 

One to one interviews feature heavily, giving the audience an in depth look at the story from both the participants’ points of view and those of their friends, family and people in the music industry. This makes the documentary both authentic and unbiased.

 

The only minor criticism that could be found is that the film leaves the audience hanging with regards to Billy and Gavin’s friendship. Having followed them through the entire story, it is slightly disappointing not to see the outcome.

 

Overall, a very enjoyable and entertaining movie.

 

We Are The Freaks *
UK/Director Justin Edgar/80 mins

 

Written and directed by Justin Edgar, “We Are The Freaks” follows three teenage friends living in Birmingham in 1990.

 

The first five minutes of the film in which we are introduced to lead character and narrator Jack (Jamie Blackley) appear promising, however it quickly descends into a poorly structured story with one dimensional characters.

 

Despite Edgar’s attempts to create an enjoyable teen comedy, the story is bland and immature. As the events of the characters’ lives unfold, it becomes somewhat like the Inbetweeners gone wrong and the audience will likely cringe rather than laugh.

 

While the idea was good, the actual film is a huge disappointment.

 

Hawking ****
UK/Director Stephen Finnigan/86 mins

 

Written and narrated by Stephen Hawking himself, the documentary follows the scientist from birth to the present day, focusing on his rise to fame and battle with motor neurone disease.

 

Featuring one on one interviews with Hawking’s family, care staff and former students, the film begins with Hawking’s early life in Oxford then progresses to his life as a student in Cambridge and diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease.

 

Despite being given a short time to live in his early 20s, Hawking goes on to live a full and active life in which he completes a PHD and gets married. To this day he continues to work and doesn’t let his declining health define him.

 

Hawking himself is admirable, however his ex wife Jane truly shines as a loyal and supportive figure in his life. Despite knowing about his illness she sticks by him and the eventual breakdown of their marriage is unrelated. Throughout his career, he also has great support from his staff and students.

 

Overall, “Hawking” is a great documentary that gives a “fly on the wall” insight into his life. Hawking’s narration is by far the best thing about the movie and adds a personal touch that no other narrator could.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

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Newsreel (W/e 16 June 2013)

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Warner Bros has officially exited the Farrelly Bros’ Dumb & Dumber To.

 

Paramount Pictures is to distribute Terminator 5, while Arnold Schwarzenegger announces that shooting will start in January 2014.

 

Michael Bay might be directing the movie version of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.

 

Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter joins the cast of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.

 

Downton Abbey’s Sophie McShera will be a stepsister in Disney’s live action version of Cinderella.

 

Carey Mulligan has turned down the role of Hillary Clinton in an upcoming biopic.

 

Chris Columbus’ remake of the Korean supernatural comedy Hello Ghost is set to star Adam Sandler.

 

Formerly titled The Muppets… Again!, the James Bobin film will now be named as Muppets Most Wanted on March 21, 2014.

 

Walt Disney Pictures & Marvel Studios have set release dates for two mystery Marvel projects that will hit May 6, 2016 & May 5, 2017.

 

Man of Steel soars to the top of U.S. box-office.

EIFF: Day 2

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Shooting Bigfoot: ****
US/ Director Morgan Matthews /90mins

 

Shooting Bigfoot is a documentary, however it feels more like a mockumentary with humourous & colourful characters. The movie is directed and presented by award-winning documentary filmmaker, Morgan Matthews.

 

The movie follows three different humters. Dallas and Wayne are two old men who have devoted their lives to finding the creature. Dallas has been retired since an injury at work, and claims he was attacked by a Bigfoot. The two friends who play cassettes of animal noises in the wilderness in order to attract the monster. Tom Biscardi, a Bigfoot documentarian who comes across as an egotistical maniac who verbally abuses people even his wife. Finally Rick Dyer who has been involved in a recent hoax and even manipulates his own little daughter into believing the creature is real.

 

The focus is primarily on Dyer’s adventure into Texan woods. The other strands are really entertaining, but when they end unexpectedly and without any satisfactory conclusion it is a little frustrating.

 

Matthews has made a compelling and extremely entertaining documentary. It is hard to say if the film is truly non fiction or a work of fiction as the interviewees and what they say are so hilarious, it feels like it is too good to be true.

 

Svengali: **
UK/ Director John Hardwick / 90mins

 

Based on writer and actor Jonny Owen’s original five-minute webisodes, the film is about Paul ‘Dixie’ Dean (Owen) who stumbles across unsigned band The Premature Congratulations (eventually shortened to ‘The Prems’) and heads to London with his girlfriend Shell (Vicky McClure). He wants to become their manager and make them famous. He confuses the industry by giving out audio-cassettes, but attracts interest of from various people including Alan McGee (as himself). But in order to succeed he must overcome financial, family and band problems in order to make his dream to be a music Svengali to become true.

 

What might of worked as a short web based idea, certainly does not work as a full length feature. The plot feels very episodic, rather than cinematic.The main character is continually ridiculed for being Welsh and stupid. This kind of humour would have been funny in the 60’s and 70’s TV sitcoms of yesteryear, but not now.

 

The other problem is that celebrity names (Martin Freeman, Katy Brand and The Libertines’ Carl Barat) are brought in to the story in roles that are not necessary to the story. It feels more like a commercial exercise.

 

If it was not for McClure as the feisty girlfriend, the film would be an absolute disaster. An unoriginal idea that has been done before in a better version notably in Still Crazy.

 

Frances Ha ****
US/ Director Noah Baumbach / 86mins

 

The Squid and the Whale auteur Noah Baumbach returns with a black and white comedic melodrama which totally feels like a 1960’s French New Wave cinema piece.

 

An aspiring dancer 27 year old Frances (Greta Gerwig) hopes of becoming a professional dancer are becoming less successful. She is broke, and has no fixed abode. Making matters even worse her best friend Sophie (Mickey Summer) is spending all her time with her boring boyfriend.

 

A surprisingly uplifting and fun film with superb performances by all, most notably from Gerwig. Strangely audiences will feel sympathy for a character who is not entirely likeable. All her problems are of her own doing. The awkwardness of her experiences can be felt by everyone as most people have encountered these situations in life at one time or another.

 

Greta Gerwig’s performance is Oscar-worthy. She gives subtle facial expressions that show a range of mixed emotions while conveying something different to a character she is interacting with.

 

The highlight of the film is a beautiful extended tracking shot of Frances dancing and running down the street, while David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ plays in the background. This sequence will make even the hardest heart smile. A powerful and touching piece of work.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

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EIFF: Day 1

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The East: ****
US/ Director Zal Batmanglij / 116mins

 

Brit Marling’s makes her second film with director/co-writer Zal Batmanglij with an original thought provoking political thriller.

 

Sarah is a private intel spy sent to undercover among to find a gang of anti-corporate terrorists. She finally infiltrates the hippie terrorist commune headed by Benji (Alexander Skarsgård).
Sarah soon ends up having the group’s trust & helps them with their plots.

 

Marling and Batmanglij have made an intriguing and original premise about the problems with capitalism.

 

The filmmakers have enlisted a fantastic bunch of actors to the mixture. Ellen Page plays the usual tomboy with attitude character, Skarsgård is the mysterious unconcerned leader of the group, while Toby Kebbell brings heart and soul to the piece as the caring and tortured Doc. However it seems a strange decision to make Shiloh Fernandez’s character look like a Johnny Depp impersonator.

 

Batmanglij composes each scene with close ups and tight shots which gives the film a claustrophobic, but more personal experience. There are no bright lit backgrounds or colours, but dull monotonous shades which gives a 1970’s movie feel.

 

The plot has a slow pace, but never feels long or dragged out. It is similiar in tone to The Purge. Unfortunately
The story becomes convulted predictable and cliched within the third act. When Sarah’s arc becomes more about romance and giving a rather pointless lecture to her boss.

 

However the movie has enough drive going for it to be an enjoyable, tense and intelligent piece of cinema.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

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Behind The Candelabra ****

matt-damon-and-michael-douglas-get-intimate-and-fight-in-behind-the-candelabra

 

Run Time: 118 mins Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: Directed by Steven Soderbergh, “Behind The Candelabra” tells the real life story of pianist Liberace and his relationship with Scott Thorson.

 

The film begins in 1976 when Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) meets Bob Black (Scott Bakula) in a bar. The two men become friends and Bob takes Scott to see Liberace (Michael Douglas) perform in Las Vegas. After being taken backstage to meet the musician, Scott forms a friendship with him and accepts his offer to work as his companion and personal assistant. This leads to a relationship between them, which the movie follows from start to finish.

 

Over the next few years, Scott and Liberace embark on a relationship that is intense and somewhat bizarre from the pianist’s side. While it’s clear he has sexual feelings for Scott, his desire to adopt the young man as his son leads the audience to question what he really wants. In the early part of the film he showers Scott with expensive presents and buys him a house nearby, saying this will give him security. As things go downhill, Scott is reminded of the gifts when he expresses dissatisfaction and the house is eventually taken back.

 

From the outset it’s obvious Scott has genuine feelings for the older musician and will go to great lengths to please him. This is particularly apparent when he agrees to undergo plastic surgery to make him look more like his partner. He is also led down the path of drug addiction by Dr Jack Startz (Rob Lowe) who convinces him that a cocktail of drugs known as “The California Diet” will make him more attractive. While it appears to work initially, things go pear shaped as Liberace craves attention from other men and Scott becomes dependent on drugs.

 

Despite it being a biopic, there is a lot of comedy throughout the film. Michael Douglas is entertaining and camp as the lead character. Sporting a dark wig and spectacular outfits he bears a strong resemblance to Liberace and adapts his voice to the role which adds both realism and comedy to his performance.

 

Out of all the actors, Matt Damon is the one that truly shines in this movie. Throughout his transformation from the young animal trainer who dreams of being a vet to the trophy boyfriend that will do anything to keep his famous lover happy, he gives an enjoyable and deep performance as Scott. This makes the audience care about the character and despite knowing the outcome in advance, the audience is likely to feel disappointment when things don’t work out.

 

The supporting cast perform well with Dan Aykroyd appearing as Liberace’s manager and Rob Lowe as his plastic surgeon. His image will make the audience laugh while providing a realistic portrayal of an individual obsessed with enhancements. Scott Bakula also gives a good performance as Bob, the man who introduces the main characters. Apart from Debbie Reynolds’ role as Liberace’s mother and a brief appearance by Scott’s foster mother, there are no women to be seen.

 

Overall “Behind The Candelabra” gives viewers an insight into the final years of Liberace’s life whilst remaining interesting and fun throughout.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan