Since announcing his retirement Steve Sodernbergh has released two movies in the UK, firstly his brilliantly psychological thriller Side Effects and now his swan song, the HBO movie Behind the Candelabra. Side Effect’s has been one of the year’s finest movies so far, could he bow out on an ever better note?
Billed as ‘too gay for Hollywood’ Behind the Candelabra was picked up by HBO films and got its world premiere at Cannes last month and then debuted on American TV on May 26th.
The film takes a look into the life of Las Vegas’ show stealing piano performer Liberace and his long lasting secret relationship with a considerably young man called Scott Thorson.
Liberace, or Lee as we come to know him is brought to life in the most magnificent of fashions with Michael Douglas giving a show stopping performance filled with flamboyance and darkness in equal measure. Douglas isn’t alone in giving a brilliant performance however, Matt Damon takes on the role of Scott with confidence and gives a performance quite like nothing we’ve seen before, matching Douglas blow for blow and at times stealing the spotlight away himself.
It’s the aforementioned mix of flamboyance and darkness that really make this movie so entertaining, beneath all of Liberace’s fur coats and golden rings there was a darkness many never got the chance to see; a wickedness driven by ego that Sodernbergh and Douglas manage to dig beneath and portray on screen with some confidence and often humour.
Like many of Sodernberg’s works there is a distinct change in tone around two thirds of the way through the movie and one that some may struggle to deal with. After luring us in with a hilarious opening hour the movie takes a more serious turn that for me really worked, keeping the narrative moving well and also keeping me hugely entertained.
The credit for the humour must not just go down to the performances though, a razor sharp script filled with witty one liners and some excellent visual gags makes this possibly the funniest movie of 2013 so far. Credit here must also go to Rob Lowe, who is brilliantly cast as Lee’s personal plastic surgeon in some of the movies most memorable scenes.
Sodernbergh also handles the movie like an expert, stylishly made with sets and costumes that dazzle off the screen and some expert editing really makes this movie stand out as one of his finest.
Verdict: The movie hits all the notes as expertly as Liberace on his piano. A razor sharp script topped with some incredible performances this is one of the year’s best movies so far.
In the words of Liberace ‘too much of a good thing is wonderful’
Editor/6Towns film critic