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Behind the Candelabra (2013)

Michael Douglas , Matt Damon , Steven Soderbergh  |  NR |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (328 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Scott Bakula
  • Directors: Steven Soderbergh
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: September 17, 2013
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (328 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00D2CYU2W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,574 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Behind the Candelabra" on IMDb

Editorial Reviews

Now that Behind the Candelabra, the HBO movie about the secret relationship between pianist/entertainer Liberace and former animal trainer Scott Thorson, has won three Emmys (including statues for best movie or miniseries, lead actor Michael Douglas, and director Steven Soderbergh), it's hard to imagine that this was once a film that no one wanted to make. "Too gay," they said. But after languishing in development for several years, and with Soderbergh, Douglas, and Matt Damon attached, the film finally premiered in 2013--and it is a triumph. Damon is thoroughly convincing as Thorson (whose book supplied the source material), the callow, not-especially-bright young man so susceptible to Liberace's charming, unctuous persuasions (things get nutty when Scott agrees to undergo extensive plastic surgery designed to turn him into a younger version of "Lee," as the pianist's friends call him). Screenwriter Richard LaGravenese's dialogue is hilarious ("In gay years," one character tells Scott, "you're Judy during the Sid Luft obese period"), while Soderbergh's directorial choices are also amusing. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast is clearly having a field day: Rob Lowe (as the cosmetic surgeon) and Debbie Reynolds (as Liberace's mother) gleefully chew the scenery, while Scott Bakula and Dan Aykroyd are entertaining as well. But this is Douglas's show, and he steals it. His performance isn't a caricature. Nor is it a parody, or an impersonation; the real Liberace, a guy whose name was seemingly always preceded by "flamboyant," was such an over-the-top character that Douglas merely has to play it straight, so to speak. In the process, he sheds light not only on Liberace's manipulative tendencies ("Scott, why don't you let me decide what's important?") but also his vulnerabilities--especially at the end, when he and Thorson have one last poignant meeting following a bitter falling out. The filmmakers also have something valuable to say about gay culture during a period when celebrities like Liberace and Rock Hudson tried desperately to stay in the closet, especially after contracting AIDS. --Sam Graham

Product Description

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and executive produced by Jerry Weintraub, this HBO Films drama recreates the glittering private world of Liberace (Michael Douglas), the flamboyant, phenomenally successful entertainer whose extravagant costumes, trademark candelabra, and elaborate stage shows made him the most bankable entertainer of his time. The story focuses on Liberace's tempestuous relationship with Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) in Las Vegas from 1977 to 1982 - a time when Liberace was at the peak of his popularity but remained closeted as a homosexual. Featuring a pair of electrifying performances by Douglas and Damon (the first time either has starred in an HBO production), Behind the Candelabra captures the essence of Liberace's appeal while reminding viewers how different attitudes were at the time, as few high-profile entertainers (including Liberace) could admit they were gay, at least in front of the public which made them stars.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
93 of 99 people found the following review helpful
Even though I was quite young, I can still remember the infamous palimony suit filed by Scott Thorson against Liberace in 1982. The story created national headlines and scandal at a time when homosexuality wasn't discussed as openly as it might be today. Despite his flamboyant stage persona, Liberace was NOT out of the closet and did not acknowledge the intimacy of this relationship. That's part of what fueled the attention, further adding to the controversy and media scrutiny. I won't discuss the outcome for those new to Thorson's memoir "Behind The Candelabra," which is the source material for this prestigious HBO project. Academy Award winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) teamed with Oscar nominated screenwriter Richard La Gravenese (The Fisher King) to adapt Thorson's book. Headlined by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, "Behind the Candelabra" was certainly one of the most anticipated TV movies of the year. As you might expect, though, this is told from Thorson's perspective and is quite sympathetic to his viewpoint. Let's just say that we do not hear about his drug fueled involvement as a prime witness in the Wonderland murders (also in the early eighties) or his contemporary incarceration for suspected burglary and identity theft charges (he was recently bailed out of jail by the owner of Bunny Ranch brothel at the end of May). Even the movie's postscript just says that Thorson is currently residing in Reno when, in fact, he was in jail on the film's premiere.

That said, though, HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" is a handsomely produced and exquisitely acted piece of entertainment. By his very nature, Liberace was (and always will be) a fascinating and improbable success story.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
"I want to be everything to you Scott. I want to be father, brother, lover, best friend." This is the true story of Scott Thorson (Damon) and his relationship with the one and only Liberace (Douglas). Scott was a normal easy going gay man with a dream to become a vet. That all changed when he met Liberace. The small town boy became a drug addicted, paranoid, and revenge obsessed man. I wasn't totally sure what to expect from this movie. I knew very little about the real Liberace and nothing about this story at all. The movie shows the rise and fall Scott and the extreme things he goes through for the man he loves. The story is pretty interesting but the real reason to watch is the performance of Michael Douglas. He is great in this and turns himself completely into the character that he makes you forget you are watching a famous actor like Michael Douglas. Overall, a pretty interesting bio-pic that I thought was pretty good but the performance by Douglas is great. I give it a B.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liberace the Legend Served Well June 13, 2013
The film is based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Scott Thorson (with Alex Thorleifson) adapted for the screen by Richard LaGravenese about the tempestuous 6-year relationship between Liberace and his much younger lover Scott Thorson. This film along with SIDE EFFECTS are purported to be Steven Soderbergh's last films he will direct.

The cast is very solid. Matt Damon embodies the role of Scott Thorson well - a young apparently bisexual man who has been tossed from foster home to foster home while he does odd jobs (he is 17 years old) tending to animals. In a gay bar he meets Bob Black (Scott Bakula) who takes Scott to a Liberace concert (his first exposure to the megastar) and to meet Liberace afterwards. There is tension in the air with Liberace's current paramour and performing partner Billy Leatherwood (Cheyenne Jackson) and we soon discover that Liberace (impeccably played by Michael Douglas) only keeps his `boys' around for a while before his manager Seymour (Dan Ackroyd) gets rid of them with a check. Liberace and Scott find common ground in being needy people without confidants and soon Scott becomes Liberace's next lover. All goes swimmingly until Liberace sees himself on a TV show and sees how aged he has become. He engages plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz (Rob Lowe in a very fine performance) to perform a youthful facelift and at the same time convinces Scott to undergo plastic surgery to make him look more like Liberace! And here begins the downfall: Dr. Startz prescribes pain meds to Scott who becomes addicted and moves into heavier drugs, and his behavior, along with Liberace's need for a `new face' (Boyd Holbrook), signals the breakup of a 6 year relationship - the best relationship either has ever had.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
This is an intriguing and bizarre story of Liberace told through the eyes of his many-year companion Scott. I read an article about this prior to seeing it and wish I'd been more surprised by the unfolding events. This a the kind of story that is better to come into blind, without reading plot-spoiling articles or reviews. So if you are thinking about watching his film, do.

The A-team performances of Micheal Douglas as Liberace, Matt Damon as Scott, Debbie Reynolds as Liberace's controlling mother, and Rob Lowe as the vain, doctor (painfully over-done with plastic surgery) are flawless. Dan Ackroyd as Liberace's avaricious agent is excellent as well. The two main performances are riveting - Oscar performance worthy, though with the HBO distribution I guess this film will not be eligible for an Oscar. Douglas unwaveringly nails Liberace's voice and mannerism, and the film seamlessly intersperses footage of the real Liberace as a young man; Damon once again shows his incredible range as an actor playing the polar opposite of the tough guy, bad boy, heart throb role. The makeup in this movie is simply amazing. Micheal Douglas is transformed into the spitting image of Liberace and various characters age, gain and lose mass, and go through other appearance-changing life issues.

Scott is a naive and talent animal trainer and aspiring vet who meets Liberace through a friend and starts to treat Liberace's poodle. As a child, Scott had been through many families in the foster system and as a young man is seeking a acceptance, love, and a father figure. He quickly becomes drawn into Liberace's flamboyant public life and bizarre private life; after the elderly poodle dies Scott even takes on the dog's nickname. A great film that I'd love to see released on the big screen.
PS - I have to disagree with some of the other reviewers on one point: Matt Damon was well cast given the age range of his character throughout the movie.
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