Behind The Candelabra: Read The Book Instead


There are many reasons why some movies succeed and others fail.  Sometimes there’s a deep and well-developed storyline, other times, there’s little story development.  Sometimes the choreography is brilliant, sometimes it’s amateurish.  Sometimes there are Academy Award winning performances, other times the actors should willingly return their paychecks.  When the cast of the HBO movie, Behind The candelabra was first announced, I thought Michael Douglas was an interesting choice to play Liberace. It would be quite different than most of his past roles.  It’s one thing to brilliantly bring a Gordon Gekko to the big screen but quite another to attempt to play a complicated and larger than life role like portraying Liberace.  Behind the candelabra is based on Scott Thorson’s 1988 memoir, Behind the candelabra: My life with Liberace. It was directed by Stephen Soderbergh and debuted at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2013.  The movie tells the story of Thorson’s six-year love affair with Liberace. Early in the movie, at the urging of Hollywood Producer and friend, Bob Black, played by Scott Bakula, Thorson goes to Hollywood to meet Liberace who quickly and clearly takes a liking to Thorson.  It isn’t long before the two begin a love affair and Thorson moves in with Liberace, who tries, unsuccessfully to adopt him.  This affair is resented by everyone involved, including his business manager, Seymour Heller, played by Dan Akroyd.  Their relationship ends with Liberace’s sexual escapades including visits to sex shops and Thorson’s drug problem.  Thorson moves out of Liberace’s palatial Hollywood mansion and attempts to win some financial compensation but receives very little from the angry, scornful and perhaps vindictive Liberace.  Shortly after moving out, Thorson receives a call from Liberace informing him that he’s very sick and would like to see him. Liberace dies from AIDS although his doctors attempted to cover it up, referring to his death as being caused by heart failure, although no one believed that at the time.  The final scene of the movie shows Thorson at Liberace’s funeral, dreaming of his departure to heaven.  While the movie was done well, (it was years in development due to lack of funding from any Hollywood studios.  It was deemed “too gay” but was ultimately picked up by HBO films).  It has one major flaw; the cast.  Douglas does an admirable job as Liberace but never do you buy Damon’s portrayal as Thorson or Lowe’s portrayal as Liberace’s plastic surgeon.  In one scene, Matt Damon is behind Douglas having sex with him and I burst out laughing.  It’s comical in its lack of believability.  I just thought of how many takes it took for the two to complete, due to their inability to keep a straight face.  Even their kissing scenes were humorous.  Simply put, it did not work. The greatness of Hollywood and actors is the ability to make us believe the roles they play.  Did anyone not believe Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher?  Never did that happen here, despite Douglas’ more than adequate depiction of Liberace.  I would suggest reading the book and staying away from the movie as this is one more case, of the book being better than the movie.

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