REVIEW: Steven Soderbergh's 'Behind the Candelabra'
This could easily be the campest film I’ve ever seen. Behind The Candelabra begins in 1977 with Scott, a young man living in a ranch with his foster parents and working with animals. When he meets Bob at a club his life takes an amazing change. Bob takes Scott to Las Vegas where he meets Liberace - an aging and very, very rich pianist. Liberace takes an instant liking to Scott and offers him a job as a companion, which basically means lover. While Scott is aware of the situation, he still forms a deeply loving relationship with Liberace even to the point where he agrees to have cosmetic surgery to look like a younger 'Lee'. His relationship with Lee is a strange one considering Liberace wanted to adopt Scott as his son. The need for intimacy and family for Liberace is what belonging is to Scott given the fractured and troubled childhood he had and Lee really does exploit that.
We learn a great deal about how Liberace's management dealt with his sexuality in the media, convincing his fans that he was heterosexual. We also learn how Lee dealt with his sexual desires and constantly rotating change of lovers including Scott.
Liberace, played by Michael Douglas is so camp he makes drag queens look boring. His performance in this film is astounding, he proves to be charming, manipulative, funny and equally dislikeable all while having very convincing chemistry with Matt Damon. Matt Damon goes from puppy faced young man to a drug addicted surgically enhanced mess of a man. He changes effortlessly in personality as well as physicality carrying the weight of Lee’s investment in him as well as his growing dependence on Lee’s love and money. This is Matt Damon in a whole new light. Steven Soderbergh defiantly has a wide spectrum as a director making several films recently all of which are pretty polar to each other. The director has an amazing ability to push actors, even someone as experienced as Michael Douglas to do something completely different and do it convincingly and that’s why the film works. Because it’s directed so well we can take a comedy such as this but it still maintains a sense of integrity among the rhinestone suits and candelabras.