Our movie head, Aviva Lange, puts on her critique spectacles to critique one of 2013's cinematic spectacles, Behind the Candelabra. The Biopic of Liberace's life features Matt Damon and Michael Douglas.
Watching two of Hollywood’s heart throbs – Michael Douglas and Matt Damon play passionate lovers – may prove to be disturbing for some. However both actors carry off their roles with incredible aplomb. Liberace was an impressively rich, self-made entertainer from the Mid-west, the child of modest immigrant parents who was well known for his elaborate lifestyle and lavish tastes. Not only that but his love of the American dream and the shroud of secrecy in which he was enfolded.
His story is not heart-breaking, that is until his demise of an Aids-identified sickness at the relatively young age of 67. In fact he can be considered a success in many ways, especially when considering how he achieved his dreams of success and wealth and died believing that he had taken the mystery of his homosexuality to the grave.
To me though Behind the Candelabra comes off as less of a biopic and more of a love story between these two very unlikely men. The world-renowned, talented and much older Lee Liberace and the unknown, fairly sheltered Scott Thorson. The film has been based on the published memoirs written by Thorson; and yet one needs to still keep in mind that this is but one side of the tale. And we all know that there are always three…at least! The movie is an enjoyable behind-the-scenes look at their stormy relationship - from their first meeting backstage in the summer of 1977 at the Las Vegas Hilton to their very unpleasant and public break-up 5 years later.
As the movie evolves we are entranced by the sheer campness of Liberace’s life and the insidious way in which he controls and slowly stamps the light out of the naïve Thorson. But we do sense that there is real love there, in amongst the over the top outfits, jewellery and sheer extravagance. Damon and Douglas are riveting in this movie and it’s hard to imagine how hard it was for these two very heterosexual leading men to submerge themselves so realistically into their respective roles. It is a tender and touching movie – even if it does highlight Liberace in a very “warts and all” manner.