Behind The Candelabra (2013)

An HBO-originated made for TV movie that received a deserved cinema release, this Steven Soderbergh directed film tells the story of Liberace’s long affair with the much younger Scott Thorson, right up to and beyond the eventual death of the pianist. Even viewed on TV, as I did, it doesn’t come off like a TV movie; Steven Sodebergh’s efficient and composed direction marks this out as worth attention.

However it doesn’t really go to the depths worthy of the film’s outstanding central performances (Michael Douglas as Liberace, Matt Damon as the lover). Liberace is pretty much as you expect the celebrity to be in this sort of story – initially attractive and engaging, then increasingly unpredictable and selfish. Scott Thorson is also as you expect the lover to be: star-struck, naive, enjoying the material benefits of his affair and eventually bitter, angry but still harbouring tender feelings. The narrative never feels quite engaging enough to grip or move; it’s more of a genre piece, really – of rich prince and commoner lover lifted above his station. I was never really moved by it – fascinated, maybe; informed, potentially. However without a real interest in Liberace as an individual or artist, it didn’t move above average.

To say it’s not a TV movie isn’t a value judgement; it’s a substance statement, describing the nature of the beast we’re watching. What we’re watching is a decent, but unspectacular glimpse into the faded glories of the over-privileged and under-loved.

I rated this movie 6/10 on imdb.com and 2.5/5 on rottentomatoes.com

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