BY ASHLEY KOWALEWSKI
Talk about a movie with buzz! I had read so much about this flick before seeing it (something, if you know me at all, I very seldom do as I hate reading opinions prior to making my unjaded one). Everything from tidbits on the sparkle magnitude of Michael Douglas’ ensembles to the lengthly prosthetics prep Matt Damon and Douglas had to go through. Even so much as reading that Director Steven Soderbergh went to several studios before finally penning a deal with HBO to produce the movie, deemed “too gay” by studios (boy, did they ever miss the boat on this one), thinking they wouldn’t be able to sell it. (Now, I’m totally biased, but I think Damon kind of sells himself in this one–but so do Douglas and Soderbergh!) One thing everyone had in common though: this was one great movie.
Were they ever right. This movie is fantastic. For those of you who don’t know, Behind the Candelabra tells the story of pianist extraordinaire “Lee” Liberace (Douglas) and his torrid affair with his younger live-in gay lover Scott Thorson (Damon) in the 1970s and early 80s. Based on the 1988 memoir by Thorson, which lent its name to the HBO flick, this movie depicts, sometimes very brazenly, the ups and downs of a relationship spent in the shadows (Liberace spent most of his life and career denying his homosexuality, and swiftly sued anyone who claimed otherwise) and the repercussions of the pursuit of power, fame and young lovers.
What a surprise having Douglas and Damon being such a dynamic pair; they truly had a chemistry as an on-screen couple and played the affair so convincingly–even the awkward sex scene–that not for a second did you question their devotion or feelings for one another. You see from the offset of the movie that Liberace craves admiration, companionship and, above all, power and found someone willing to provide all of that in Scott. This film shows the constant power struggle between Liberace and Scott, though Liberace having all of the money certainly gave him some leverage. It’s pretty apparent that Scott tries on many occasions to regain control of his life and emotions, and when he can’t do so (for fear of losing his love and his lavish lifestyle), he inadvertently becomes addicted to the drugs he was given when he went for his facial reconstruction surgery, as per the request and expense of Liberace. As many passionate love stories do, this one ends in tragedy, though is executed so tenderly you don’t even mind.
The costumes, sets and prosthetics were true to Liberace form: over the top, to say the least. Even after Scott’s surgery (of course done with heavy prosthetics), Damon is barely recognizable and has a plasticky glean that is mildly jarring. And Douglas–oh, Douglas. Liberace, post-facelift, in a word: horrifying–but no doubt exactly what Soderbergh was going for. The amount of crystals the crew must have gone through for Liberace’s costumes in this movie… I can only imagine it’s an obscene number. But, as I said, true to Liberace form. All for the showmanship, right?