Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe
Runtime: 118 minutes
Rating: 93% Fresh
Views: 1st Viewing
Steven Soderbergh is one Hollywood’s most diverse, most successful, and most talented directors of the last 30+ years, and his announcement concerning his nearing retirement took the film world by shock. The one-time Best Director winner decided for his last theatrical film to be 2013’s Side Effects, and that Behind the Candelabra, an HBO film, would be his farewell to the world of film direction. Soderbegh’s official last film made it’s debut at Cannes (in competition for the Palme d’Or, no less) to a very respectable critical reaction, making his swan song a complete success. Behind the Candelabra is based on the book of the same name, written by Scott Thorson, and is about Scott’s former lover, virtuoso Liberace. The film doesn’t focus on the lives of either man, but instead chronicles the secret relationship the two had for a five year period. Scott Thorson (played by Matt Damon) meets Liberace (Michael Douglas) when the piano player’s act is at its peak in popularity. The two quickly strike up a close friendship, and soon become secret lovers. Liberace begins moulding the much younger Thorson into a version of himself, paying for a plastic surgery, and transforming his image and lifestyle. Scott’s pill addiction and Liberace’s need for an open relationship eventually causes a rift between the two, and it leads to a very personal and public break-up and scandal.
Soderbergh’s Candelabra is a perfect example of a director making a very personal and passionate final film, and one that has made his early retirement that much harder to cope with. His career spanned nearly four decades, and featured incredible films like Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, The Informant!, and 2012’s highly underrated (and misunderstood) Magic Mike. It’s a shame to see such a talented and visionary filmmaker with so much life ahead of him step out of the limelight so early. His direction in the film is subtle and handled with great care. Nobody is portrayed as a “bad” person in this story, and that alone is worthy of praise. The use of Liberace’s music throughout the movie adds life to Candelabra, as does the glossy look of the entire film. On a technical level, Behind the Candelabra is flawless.
Behind the Candelabra features one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen in a long time in Michael Douglas’ Liberace. At times I forgot I was watching Douglas, because his Liberace was so incredibly deep and convincing. Douglas hasn’t been this good in years, and neither has his co-star Matt Damon. Damon isn’t usually somebody who is known for giving bravura performances, but his turn as Scott Thorson is worthy of many awards. When these two actors retire, their performances in Behind the Candelabra are going to stand out among their impressive filmography’s. Supporting performances from Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, and Dan Aykroyd among others are also great, most notably that of Rob Lowe’s. Lowe plays plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz, and adds a huge amount of comedic relief to the film. The comedy isn’t forced, and definitely not in your face (pun intended, for those who have seen the film). The incredible performances within the film add that much more to Candelabra, and again show just how talented of a director Soderbergh really is. A phenomenal film as a whole, and a triumph for Steven Soderbergh. Highly recommended! 9.5/10.