Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Dan Aykroyd, Debbie Reynolds, Rob Lowe, Scott Bakula (Rated MA – 118 min).
Behind The Candelabra is one of the best movies of the year, almost perfect in every way and Australia is one of the few countries that can see it at the cinema. Originally made for U.S television, it was screened at the Cannes film festival sending the notoriously critical French audiences into a frenzy. The disco era is brought to life from different viewpoints by director Steven Soderbergh who claims this immaculate film to be his last. I hope not.
The film recounts a secret love affair over a six year period of the flamboyant piano maestro Liberace with his much younger Californian blonde dog trainer, Scott. On a trip to Vegas with his best friend Bob, the musician takes an instant liking to Scott making devious moves towards him from the outset. Turbulent affections between the two keep the spark alive for a while but the passion wears thin as celebrity excess reigns. Damon is amazing in an understated performance as the innocent golden boy who gradually turns monstrous due to extreme plastic surgery and an addiction to diet pills. For those interested, Matt presents his posterior to the camera on several occasions.
A tour de force from Michael Douglas as the man who could have invented ‘Bling’, bringing the camp facade of Liberace alive, even performing some of the piano melodies himself. Decadence of the highest level, Douglas shows off his pearly whites and bouffant hair tinkling the ivories in more ways than one. Not always a nice person, possessiveness and over indulgence behind the scenes makes for some interesting viewing. Legendary actress Debbie Reynolds (Singing in the Rain) headlines a remarkable supporting cast including Dan Akyroyd and the ageless, former brat pack member, Rob Lowe. Unforgettable as Dr. Startz, Lowe shows unlikely generosity and edge to a very complex role.
Soderbergh has successfully explored smut in hits such as Sex, Lies & Videotape and The Girlfriend Experience. Here he allows his lead actors to flow into good and bad mannerisms. The seedy side of Liberace is well and truly on show here. If you’re an old fan of the piano man, this film might just cloud any personal opinions. For lovers of good quality drama, Behind the Candelabra is not to be missed under any circumstances.
Shane A. Bassett