28
May
2013
Brief: Behind the Candelabra
Behind the Candelabra
Jordan
This is supposedly Soderbergh's last hurrah, a look at the tumultuous relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his longtime "companion" Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). This is a very well directed, well acted, and often affecting biopic, with more interest in the dynamics of the relationship that is its focus than in the particular biographical details of the celebrity at its center. Its a better movie for that, though I do think a lot more buzz is being generated because it is Soderbergh's swan song than because its actually an incredible film.

Though many of the critics I've read are praising Michael Douglas' performance (which is very good, though far less transformative than I'd read), for my money Matt Damon steals the show here. He's playing a part he is literally decades too old for, but he nails Thorson's initial innocence and discomfort well, and carries his transformation into an entitled kept man and paranoid drug addict very well. The movie also has its share of excellent celebrity cameos, most particularly Rob Lowe as a plastic surgeon who looks like a latter-day Michael Jackson and an unrecognizable Debbie Reynolds as Liberace's mother. The film is at its best when Scott begins to realize how precarious his situation is and how easily he can be replaced, but it has a great sense of place and time throughout, creating a very believable Las Vegas in the '70s and '80s and a completely understandable underbelly in which its closeted central player must lurk. To the world, Liberace is a sensitive man just looking for the right girl. But what happens when the spotlight is elsewhere is what gives the film its greatest emotional resonance.

Read more of Jordan's Film Criticism here
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