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

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