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Behind the Candelabra (2013)

TV Movie  -   -  Biography | Drama | Romance  -  7 June 2013 (UK)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 22,506 users  
Reviews: 129 user | 232 critic

Based on the autobiographical novel, the tempestuous 6-year relationship between Liberace and his (much younger) lover, Scott Thorson, is recounted.

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(screenplay), (book), 1 more credit »
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Title: Behind the Candelabra (TV Movie 2013)

Behind the Candelabra (TV Movie 2013) on IMDb 7.1/10

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Won 2 Golden Globes. Another 24 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Bob Black
...
Lou
...
Assistant Director
...
Director
Tom Roach ...
Stunt Actor
...
Camera Assistant
John Smutny ...
Sound Mixer
...
Rose Carracappa
...
Joe Carracappa
...
...
George Liberace
...
...
Dora Liberace
...
Billy Leatherwood
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Storyline

Scott Thorson, a young bisexual man raised in foster homes, is introduced to flamboyant entertainment giant Liberace and quickly finds himself in a romantic relationship with the legendary pianist. Swaddled in wealth and excess, Scott and Liberace have a long affair, one that eventually Scott begins to find suffocating. Kept away from the outside world by the flashily effeminate yet deeply closeted Liberace, and submitting to extreme makeovers and even plastic surgery at the behest of his lover, Scott eventually rebels. When Liberace finds himself a new lover, Scott is tossed on the street. He then seeks legal redress for what he feels he has lost. But throughout, the bond between the young man and the star never completely tears. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

"Too much of a good thing is wonderful"


Certificate:

TV-MA | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

7 June 2013 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Liberace  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to an interview with Michael Douglas at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, Debbie Reynolds, who plays Liberace's mother in this movie, was personally acquainted with the real Liberace and appeared as a guest on his variety show. Douglas also said that when he was younger, his father, Kirk Douglas, had a Palm Springs home down the street from one of Liberace's homes, and although Michael Douglas never met Liberace, he did occasionally see him in the neighborhood. See more »

Goofs

Towards the end of the film, there is an exterior shot of Palm Springs city hall which shows a modern dome CCTV camera. See more »

Quotes

Liberace: I love to give the people a good time.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Episode #22.1 (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Begin the Beguine
Written by Cole Porter
Piano Performed by Randy Kerber
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Point and Counter Point: Liberace's Life In Front Of and Behind the Candelabra
26 May 2013 | by (Palm Springs - United States) – See all my reviews

Behind the Candelabra is not a biopic. Although the story revolves around the life of Liberace, the film is more than that. It is a love story that encompasses universal themes with a surrealistic twist.

It is well crafted by Steven Soderbergh, a veteran director with such films as Traffic, Erin Brockovich and Ocean's Eleven under his belt. And although Soderbergh describes the work as "Alice going down the rabbit hole," it is a surprisingly strong film with convincing performances and a tender, yet out-of-the-box, point of view.

Two of Hollywood's big-name alpha males – Michael Douglas and Matt Damon – play the lead roles delivering strong and convincing performances. It would have been easy to portray the over-the-top flamboyance of Liberace in high camp theatricality. But not here. Douglas is restrained, measured, and deliberate. His Liberace straddles both sides of the male persona. Douglas goes from being tender lover and father-protector to the excessive, power-hungry controlling tyrant driven to an addiction for acquisition: homes, jewelry, dogs, new lovers, and all things Louis Quinze.

Damon's Thorson is both a quintessential 70s male hooker and passive disco diva. All through the film, he is dazed and awestruck by his surroundings. As Liberace's latest boy-toy, he basks in the glow of rococo excess. And he is bewildered and confused when Liberace -- moving on to the next conquest – tragically, and predictably, takes everything away. Always, Thorson seems to be a man to whom things happen. He is not a figure who takes control of his surroundings but rather is controlled by them. This passivity is quite surprising in as much as the movie is based on a book written by Thorson who is hell-bent on casting himself in the best possible light.

In contrast to the one-sided take of Thorson's book, Soderbergh's film provides Thorson with depth and dimension. He is more than a victim. He actively plays into his victimhood. Soderberg shows Thorson as actively doing nothing to improve his life or circumstance. Instead of taking full advantage of his relationship with Liberace, Thorson lives in, and for, the moment. He piddles away the opportunity to make something of himself beyond the rentboy persona. It brings new meaning to the old Freddy Fender song "Wasted days and wasted nights." At the end, all he ends up with is another diet, addiction, a new face and a paltry $95K.

The supporting cast members are equally effective as the leads. The standout here is, unquestionably, Rob Lowe as Liberace's plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz. His face is wonderfully plastic and his acting sublime. Scott Bakula is Liberace's mustachioed procurer; Dan Aykroyd is his Foster-Grant-wearing manager/henchman; and Debbie Reynolds is Liberace's prosthesized-up-the-ying-yang Polish mother. All submit strong performances despite brief appearances in almost cameo roles. None of the supporting actors distracts from the focus on the two tragic lovers whose end comes as expectedly as any Shakespearean tragedy.

To convey that 70s and early 80s look and feel, Soderberg seems to have used old-fashioned film in lieu of going "straight" digital. The movie is bracketed by what appears as grainy home movies. It opens with the LA bar scene and 17-year-old Thorson at his outlying rural foster home. It ends with the melodramatic flourish of Liberace's death in Palm Springs and the resulting saga over the Riverside County coroner's attempts to autopsy the body despite the family's efforts to keep his AIDS-related cause of death from public view. The conflict is told via newsreel storytelling straight out of Orson Well's Citizen Kane.

In between, we are taken on a trip to wonderland. Like riding in a monorail, we are shuttled between houses in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Palm Springs. We enter rooms upon rooms replete with white painted pianos, crystal chandeliers and gold-gilt furniture. The journey is a magical mystery tour into a bizarre world inhabited by two larger than life figures beset with very ordinary problems. Like everyone else, they face issues of money and power; attraction and rejection; youth and old age; addiction and dysfunction; life and death. And weaving through it all, is the all-too-common story of "the next new thing; the next big fix." I guess in the end, the grass is always greener on the other side. And what we have is never enough.

Soderberg weaves a morality tale where choices have consequences and people get exactly what they deserve. In this movie, the consequences are cruel but quite sober and sensible. There are neither suicides nor any type of saccharine sentimentality. And while the pathos could be deliciously comedic – especially on a story about the avatar of kitsch when punctuated with high camp – Soderbergh is refreshingly restrained. He tells his story with a firm grip and a cautioned mannerism.

On stage – and in front of the candelabra – Liberace lived a life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams. But behind the glitz and the glamour, we glimpse the flawed, all-too-human and imperfect everyman who is uncomfortable in his skin, seeking miracles from plastic surgery and sexual hedonism. He is not a hero or anti-hero; victim or victimizer; predator or prey. He is all and neither. Liberace's life is heroic because he was able to achieve much despite the odds. But his real life was lived in darkness cast by the shadow of the lights behind the candelabra.


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Unimpressed with Matt Damon... naksu-298-415794
Someone explain to me why a 40 year old was cast as Scott? LynneSin
Did anyone else catch Dan Akroyd's other role? stick500
Did Scott not want to take it in his ass? akshaymoturi
The make up: How did they do that? cteavin-1
If Liberace wanted so badly to convince the public he was straight.... NoJeansBob
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