Behind The Candelabra (2013) – Review

Well look at that!  Steven Soderbergh is still making movies, apparently.  Technically this is a TV movie (only the UK has a theatrical release – the US can see it on HBO), but it’s still a movie.  You may recall what I said in my review of Side Effects earlier this year (Soderbergh’s last effort), that it would be a shame if it were his last film because he’s capable of much better.  Well, this is that much better.

The highest praise must go to Douglas and Damon for two fantastic and absolutely authentic performances.  Their relationship as a gay couple is more believable than you would ever believe possible, and their commitment to the cause is really quite breathtaking.  They really go for it here, from kisses to butt-grabbing in soaking wet swim shorts, and there’s never a second where we don’t believe them.  Similar to the way Daniel Day-Lewis tapped into Lincoln, Douglas gets the Liberace persona down to a tee, with the voice and body language, to the point where we begin to forget it’s actually him.  Rob Lowe, too, is hilarious as the plastic surgeon whose face is too lifted to produce more than one expression.

Being unaware of the life Liberace led, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into.  In the end I felt like I had watched Walk The Line meets I Love You, Phillip Morris, a blend of a true story episodic narrative with an impassioned central relationship and occasional graphic love scenes.  Adapting from a first person account of Scott Thornson’s memoirs, Soderbergh’s approach doesn’t necessitate a prior knowledge of Liberace’s life, or pander to those who were alive at the time, instead it informs and entertains.  Case in point, I didn’t know much about the man other than his name, but I was thoroughly won over, with perhaps just the odd wobble in between, from the first minute to the last.

With Behind The Candelabra, Soderbergh cements himself as one of the world’s most competent and workmanlike directors, turning a small budget into a shining spectacle, and stepping back in this instance to let the actors do most of the work.  He may have jumped ship to TV, but so long as he keeps making pictures like this, there’s really nothing to complain about.  A funny, informative and always respectful account of truly interesting figure.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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  • partidario June 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm:

    Douglas, in real life, has a reputation of being a womaniser, that it’s hard to think of him in this type of role or believe that he could pull it off, but it seems he has. The thought of him and Matt Damon kissing and grabbing each other’s butts, is off-putting to say the least, but then they’re actors doing what actors do best. Still, I think I may have to look away at some scenes or forever taint my image of the dashing Matt Damon.

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