Behind the Candelabra

By Curtis J PhillipsBehind-the-Candelabra

Writing this column on a weekly basis for more than 30 years, I recently hit a rut. It was time to take a break. Gone was the fix of pop, popcorn and pizzazz.

It took a movie, a movie too controversial for the main stream financers and studios to bring it to the silver screen, to get my creative juices flowing again.

At home, sitting on my couch and watching the small screen, the magic of movies returned with the premiere of Behind the Candelabra recently on HBO.

Based on the autobiographical book “Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace”, some may find this 118-minute black comedy drama a bit edgy and not the slant in which they wanted.

We see only glimpses of the Liberace known to the general public….the piano virtuoso, flamboyant and fun on stage, marked by his over the top outfits.

Having had a chance to see Liberace, who died at age 67 in 1987 of complications from AIDS, perform in Winnipeg in the 1970s’, I too was a fan of his eccentric entertainment.

He was considered to be the greatest performer of all time and was the world’s highest paid entertainer spanning the 1950s – 1970s.

He was also a closeted homosexual.

This is the focus of director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) follows. We get an inside look at Liberace, now in his late 50s’, entering into a rocky six-year relationship with his lover Scott Thorson,  who is nearly 40 years younger.

Locked away in his palace along with his desire to remain young, be it through plastic surgery or a revolving door of promiscuity, we get to see the demons of Liberace.

Rob Lowe is comical in the role of Liberace’s plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz, always drunk or high on something. Plus there are bit pieces for Scott Bakula and Dan Aykroyd as Liberace’s friend and manager respectively.

Debbie Reynolds is also allowed a few lines in the role of Liberace’s mother.

But it is Michael Douglas in the lead as Liberace and Matt Damon as a young Thorsen, that make this movie a tragic love story. A daring move for both actors, each an Oscar winner, to take on.

It shows that they are secure in their career and comfortable in their own being.

Unlike Brokeback Mountain or J. Edgar, which were mainstream, Behind the Candelabra does not hold back the physicality between Douglas and Damon with their kissing and simulated sexual encounters.

The emotion between the two veteran actors is raw and powerful at times while also tender.

Once you get your mind around the fact, that no matter the makeup, Damon, 42, does not look like a 20 year old, things run smoothly.

It is sad that this movie is not eligible for an Academy Award as an Oscar for sure would have come this way for Douglas, or at least a nomination.

On the scale of one to five we give this a solid four.

See you on the silver screen.