It’s a little strange to me that Behind the Candelabra came out on HBO rather than in theatres. It’s a little strange to me that none of the studios in North America have picked the movie up for distribution. It’s a little strange to me that after all the progress we’ve made in the world the story of Liberace is still too gay for America, even though there’s nothing much there that you haven’t already seen in Brokeback Mountain and others.
It’s a shame too because Behind the Candelabra is a great movie, and this way you might not get a chance to see it.
Based on the memoirs of Scott Thorston the film details the rougly 5 year relationship between Liberace, the piano player who at the height of his popularity was apparently a bigger draw in Vegas than Elvis, and Thorston from their meeting backstage after a show to their terrible breakup.
Matt Damon plays Thorston and Michael Douglas is Liberace. Both actors bring their A games here. Douglas in particular captures Liberace’s sort of two faced nature, lavashing Thorston with gifts while demanding everything from the naive young man. Further playing the frustration of a guy basically addicted to sex but stuck in a era where it’s not acceptable for him to go after the sex he wants.
Damon also does well here going from naive young man to bitter ex-lover and everything in between.
The beauty in the performances is that they manage to capture the intimacy between the two men and the connection they shared, whether it’s the pillow talk from the first act or the fighting towards the end. I’m also a fan of how the story played out with both Thorston and Liberace both at fault for their falling out, but also managing to make both of them sympathetic while they are basically being bastards to one another.
I have mixed feelings about Steven Soderbergh but his style, quiet and deliberate serve the story here incredibly well. The pacing is spot on and the camera work is perfect, managing to show us a lot without actually showing much at all.
There’s a lot of reasons why it’s dumb this movie isn’t in theatres. It’s a great movie that’s not going to be up for any of the big movie awards and Michael Douglas at least deserves an Oscar nod for his performance here. I’ve heard that it’s “too gay for America” and that’s a can of worms that I don’t want to open here other than to say that it’s dumb, especially given what we’ve already seen in American theatres. This movie has pretty much literally everything going for it and I wish it would have the chance to get the recognition it deserves.
Rating = 8/10