NZIFF – Behind The Candelabra- Review

Michael Douglas dons the bling to beat all bling as he plays Liberace in this glittering biopic.

We join the pianist entertainer during the last ten years of his life, at the time of his affair with a young Scott Thorson. The story is based on Thorson’s 1988 book  Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace.

Their secret relationship is a somewhat traumatic love story with ups and downs that include narcissism to the extreme. When you are asking a surgeon to make your boyfriend look like you I think you have hit the heights right there.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Startz, played by Rob Lowe, is truly one of the highlights of this film. Not only is his appearance unexpectedly odd, he also manages to make himself a key and extremely memorable part of the cast with very little screen time.

This film cleverly delivers funny without being silly. The flamboyance of Liberace plays to the opportunities to create some wonderful tongue in cheek moments, which Douglas seems to revel in. He captivates both the showman and the loneliness his career and celebrity has created. His metamorphosis into this eccentric character seems to come with ease and is a joy to watch.

Matt Damon as Scott Thorson is also a desperate and lonely character. His obvious love for Libarace results in his own vulnerability and weakness. His character goes through the most change in the film and Damon portrays the camp and catastrophe with emotional honesty. However despite some bad will it is never questioned that these two men did indeed love each other. Damon gives an excellent performance throughout.

Director Steven Soderbergh has captured this story with sensitivity and humour. The costumes are of course fantastic and the on stage pianist performances work wonderfully. Soderbergh’s stylish direction compliment this story perfectly.

Behind The Candelabra is a deeply personal look at a quirky superstar delivered with all the style and grace of Liberace himself.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar


Behind The Candelabra opened the New Zealand International Film Festival and is in Auckland and 22 July. Also showing from 27 July in Wellington.