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May 27, 2013

Cannes Film Festival Review: Behind the Candelabra

by Stephanie Dawson

Liberace was a virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer, and star of stage and television. He lived lavishly on stage and off with head-to-toe jeweled suits and bejeweled pianos crowned with a candelabra to match. In the summer of 1977, a handsome young Scott Thorson was introduced to Liberace, and despite their age difference and different worlds the two began a secret five-year love affair. HBO Films presented the film based on their true story, Behind the Candelabra, in competition on the Cannes red carpet Tuesday. The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike, 2012) and stars Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson.

This is arguably Matt Damon’s best performance in a dramatic role, and definitely his best in a while. He pulls off the transformation from innocent country boy to “kept,” spoiled boyfriend with care and sensitivity. Douglas was perfectly cast and is in top form as an arrogant-on-the-outside, insecure-on-the-inside Liberace, with an effective, manipulating charm. Soderbergh adeptly paints the world of Liberace and his excesses, aided by amazing sets and costumes. Makeup also takes center stage in the film, erasing years off both actors for their roles, and later transforming the characters as the years and plastic surgery take their toll. Rob Lowe’s makeup especially accents his performance as the couple’s kitschy plastic surgeon. Visual effects were employed to give Douglas authenticity when performing as Liberace. They are effective, though not always seamless. Despite the petulance of the spoiled rich artist and his harem, the film is a turbulent love story cultivated with a delicate hand, allowing the audience to sympathize through the ups and downs of the relationship. Refreshingly, Douglas, Damon, and cast steer clear of gay caricature in their performances, save for Douglas’s Liberace accent. Behind the Candelabra is a solid film with laughs and tears, passion and pain not to be missed.

Limité Rating: 4/5


Director: Steven Soderbergh

Screenwriter: Richard LaGravenese

Cast: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Debbie Reynolds

Distributor: HBO

TRT: 118 min.

Release: May 26, 2013 (on HBO)

The 2013 Cannes Film Festival concluded on May 26 in Cannes, France.

Follow Limité Senior Film Contributor Stephanie Dawson and her personal exploits in Cannes on her blog,

posted by: Stephanie Dawson
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