Title: Behind the Candelabra
Genre: Biography, Drama
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenwriter: Richard LaGravenese
based on the book written by Scott Thorson and Alex Thorleifson
Cinematography/Editor: Steven Soderbergh
Garrett M. Brown
Steven Soderbergh’s tentative final film is a biography of Liberace, with the cast of Michael Douglas (his post-cancer comeback) and Matt Damon, it still fails to secure a cinema release in USA, which comes across as a bummer since after BROKENBACK MOUNTAIN (2005) and MILK (2008), in the mainstream media, gay films haven’t yet progressed much thanks to the conservative top brass in the Hollywood. Anyway, trends will change eventually, nothing can stop it, USA made a great advancement several days ago and the rest of the world will follow.
Michael Douglas stuns with his effeminate mimicry (on stage is the lilting rendition) in the film as the world-known pianist, a flamboyant closeted-man, a selfish control-freak obsesses with his complexion and his tabloid news, but he is also a genius player, an apt entertainer, although the taste he denotes is tawdry and grandiose, he is a nouveau-riche would make the rest of the world grudge. Though hobbled by my ignorance of Liberace, Douglas’ incarnation is a self-challenging ambition and now an Emmy award is low-hanging fruit for him, and the make-up team too is awesome, both the face-lifting and AIDS-afflicting guises are eyeball-grabbing.
Matt Damon is his Adonis baby-boy Scott Thorson, albeit both him and Douglas are two-decades older than their characters in real age, it is a long-delayed meaty role for Matt, in lieu of the film is based on Scott’s own version of the story, he hogs an ever longer screen time than Liberace, one might find him in lack of a sense of queerness in his rough-edginess (by comparison, Boyd Holbrock is more accurate in presenting his allure as another young flesh for Liberace), but the choice itself flouts the stereotype, and Damon runs the gamut of emotions from a naive boy falls for an elder man to a meds-addicted fop cannot get over with his philandering significant other, his best performance so far!
Two highlights from the supporting group, Rob Lowe, whose face undergoes an extreme elevation, plays deadpan humor at its best as the plastic surgeon; the legendary Debbie Reynolds, also stands out as Liberace’s mother whose exotic accent and childish playfulness leave a strong impression from her brief stint in the film.
Out of my wayward obstinacy, I put Damon ahead of Douglas regarding the performance, but the film is a well-orchestrated drama, Soderbergh steers clear of any offshoots and centers on the troubled relationship which is tedious but typical in a mundane world. We sneer it on the screen whilst in reality we tread the same water again and again.