Behind the Candelabra review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Love is complicated. Love with Liberace (Michael Douglas) however seems almost impossible. Behind the Candelabra looks at the different ways we see relationships and the horrible things we force upon those we care about in the name of deepening that bond. Liberace takes and takes until the only option is for whomever he is with to leave.
Following the relationship between Liberace and Scott Thorsen (Matt Damon), a polite, animal loving gay man who one night is introduced to the piano maestro and convinced to come work for him. Their relationship changes but when Liberace asks for too much and leads Scott down a road of drugs, surgery and extreme dieting the couple begin a relationship of manipulation and deceit, all in the name of love.
Damon leads the production and his Thorsen is a charming, naive and most of all likable soul whose fixation with Liberace cost him more than he bargained for. Douglas brings flair and sickly sweet smarm to his portrayal of Liberace, an intensely charming presence but one who constantly monitors the way he is seen, a man so consumed by his reputation that he fails to see the things in front of him.
Intent on telling its story with care and attention, director Steven Soderbergh fails to add any tension or pace to this tale of passion. The film is beautifully shot and framed with the cinematography effectively hiding the small budget but its attention to detail doesn’t make the film anymore dramatic or exciting. There is no other way to say it, it’s a glacial film.
The writing is equally impressive, the cast is spectacular with Rob Lowe being an interesting and wonderful choice for Liberace’s resident plastic surgeon but Soderbergh’s direction makes for a slow watch, a problem many of his films suffer from, although the attention to detail and the tale as a whole is impressive. Full of sparkle and life, Liberace is an interesting presence but one unable to excite for a whole picture.