Behind the Candelabra

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behind_the_candelabraSteven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic is notable for two things.  First, the film has been heavily hyped as being Soderbergh's final film as a director.  It remains to be seen whether this truly will be his final film or if Soderbergh will merely end up taking a sabbatical for a few years.  The film is also notable for reportedly being turned down by major film distributors for being “too gay,” which is why the film ended up being produced by and aired on HBO (even though there were also some festival screenings of the film). Behind the Candelabra follows the final decade in the life of the famous pianist Liberace (), who despite his flamboyant appearance publicly denied that he was a homosexual.  However, behind the scenes, Liberace enters a relationship with a young man named Scott Thorson ().  What begins as a passionate affair slowly dissolves over the years, until the two have a very public break-up. I have to admit that, despite the high profile director and actors involved, the film still felt to me like a typical made-for-TV biopic.  Of course, since the film was made for HBO, it featured some sex and language that you wouldn't see on a film made for network TV.  Even though the film was originally intended for a theatrical release, the somewhat lower HBO budget is quite evident throughout and the actual plot has a real “by the numbers” feel to it. The weak plot is made-up for somewhat by the quality of the performances.  Both Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are quite unrecognizable in their roles, especially after both characters undergo plastic surgery, which results in quite a few facial prosthetics.  Speaking of which, Rob Lowe has been getting some buzz for his brief appearance as the quite weird plastic surgeon Jack Startz.  Based on what I've heard about this scene-stealing role, I expected the character to be a bit weirder than he turns out to be.  However, Lowe definitely has the most interesting make-up of the film.  Also unrecognizable is Scott Bakula as Scott Thorson's friend Bob Black and I watched more than half of the film before realizing that it was playing Liberace's manager Seymour Heller. Overall, I have to say that, other than the hype of this being Steven Soderbergh's final film, I didn't see the film as much more than a so-so HBO biopic.  The performances do elevate the film a little bit, but Behind the Candelabra is still a very by-the-numbers film and, in my opinion, not the best film to finish of Soderbergh's directorial career with.  Still, it was an OK film.7 | FAIR 

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.