3.5 out of 5
Too much of a good thing is wonderful indeed! When you’re wearing rhinestones than can suffocate even Cher and RuPaul combined, you must be having a good life. It was really surprising that many major film studios refused to do Behind the Candelabra project, considering the story is too gay. This is after the much graphic Brokeback Mountain and I Love You, Phillip Morris, by the way. Thank God HBO had the gut to produce the film. They had to, since they had the gut to make series like Girls, Hung, and Tell Me You Love Me.
The film is adapted from Scott Thorson’s memoir titled Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace. All I knew about Liberace was from my Mum’s story; telling me how fabulous he was, that he always glimmered underneath billowing fur coats, and with a pompadour that could make Elvis run for the money. What was really interesting that despite all of the extravaganza, none of Liberace’s fans knew he was gay! His manager, Seymour, spent millions of dollars for publicity by telling stories that Liberace had not find the woman of his dream yet. Oh, how gullible the people were.
Scott Thorson came to know Liberace, or Lee, when he met him at his changing room after a concert. Lee soon got interested to get to know this Adonis-looking young man better, who is by the way 40 years younger than him. Scott was 17 when he first met 57 years old Lee. Soon romance developed as Lee asked Scott to work for him as his personal secretary, doing from chauffering him on a rhinestones encrusted limousine to handling the fans. Lee also showered him with gifts of expensive suits and jewellery. But Lee was so isolated and depraved himself from social functions, making Scott feeling lonely and trapped inside the mansion. Then came the idea of cosmetic surgery to make himself looked forever younger. Lee did become younger looking, but he had to sleep with his eyes open. It didn’t stop there, Lee also wanted Scott to have cosmetic surgery to look more like Lee. After all of the surgeries and diet pills, nothing made thing better as Scott drowned into heroin addiction and Lee’s philandering habit became worse. That all happened within 6 years. Scott Thorson was 23 years old when he finally separated from Liberace.
Despite the topic of gay relationship, this film is not gay at all. Director Stephen Soderbergh’s clean frame and editing managed to make each scene looks tasteful. There’s neither overdramatic cheesy dialogues nor explicit sexual scenes, instead it’s peppered with cheeky humour. Michael Douglas is hilarious as the great Liberace. In the beginning of the film he looks like your queer and joyful Aunty Libby. But towards the end of the film he becomes your egocentric, diva-ish, definitely cougar Aunty Libby. Matt Damon’s performance was good. He transforms from young and innocent Scott into depressed-I-sacrificed-everything-for-you Scott ever so subtly. Dan Aykroyd plays Liberace’s no nonsense manager Seymour, while Scott Bakula plays Bob, the Hollywood agent who introduced Scott to Liberace. The most hilarious supporting performance is by Rob Lowe, playing dr. Startz the cosmetic surgeon. Startz’s face is heavily surgically enhance that he couldn’t move a single muscle, not even blinking. Overall, this is an interesting way to look into Liberace’s last 10 years of his life back in the day when galore was truly glamorous.