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Behind the Candelabra (2013)
Subjective Biopic Similar to Goodfellas/Casino but on gay characters
I really loved this movie because it unlocked the mystery of Liberace to me. I guess you could say I am a Liberace fan, not necessarily of his music or style, but in his baldfaced schizo lifestyle under the mirrored pond of his success and artistic stylings. I find him fascinating, though I'm probably more interested in him than in his fluffy music.
Lee does all things his way. He wants a fur with a 20 foot drape? Presto! He wants to wear a ring on each finger? Sure! Not only can he play the piano, but also "very well." He wants to be driven on stage in a giant Rolls, handled by a 20 year old blondAdonis from the sticks, groomed to be Lee's "personal bodyguard"? Oh most definitely YES!
So to me the most intriguing way is on the one hand, Liberace artfully cons his primary audience of middle aged Midwest housewives into believing he hasn't "met the right woman." I remember at 14 asking my parents after maybe Carson, why does Liberace have to act like he's not gay? EVERYONE knows it! My dad says to me, the fans just haven't caught on. Later, I saw an interview of Lee, claiming he played "You Made Me Love You" to Queen Elizabeth II, who sang along in her place.
Back to the movie. The only person that can tell this story is Scott Thorson. I feel like I've waited for Scott to open up and tell what was Lee really like, and how was it that Scott could have gotten involved in the first place?
So I was glad to hear not only was Steven directing but Michael Douglas, the quintessential Alpha Male, was to be none other than Lee Liberace. I couldn't wait to see his spin on the character and I knew he wouldn't overdo or caricature. You just had to know that Michael would be asking himself these questions: How would Liberace pour orange juice? How would he straighten his wig, how would he trim his nails? What would he order at the McDonalds? And other perfectly boring things that you would have to know being Liberace on a day to day basis. You really believed Michael was a 60 year old gay man stuck in a lie.
I didn't think too much about Matt Damon as the boy toy but I just kind of thought generic beefcake role, he'll be fine. But he's more than fine. I personally felt Matt stole the show, maybe that was the plan all along? But I really thank Michael for letting Matt steal the show because I knew it was going to be very difficult for Michael to be on par with Matt without overshadowing the little ole country boy from San Bernardino County, L.A. Ultimately, Matt underpromised and overdelivered.
The plot is three parts really: (1) Scott becoming acquainted with and ultimately falling in love with Liberace, (2) becoming essentially united with Liberace as far as a person and even a possession by receiving gifts and requiring to take diet pills and obtain plastic surgery, and (3) the eventual falling away from Liberace by basically what I felt was a Casino/Goodfellas type of internal implosion caused by greed and drugs on one part, lust, power and control on the other.
The first part is most interesting. First, you'd have to be nuts to fall in love with Lee Liberace in the first place if you were forty years his junior but Matt Damon played that part with some restraint and curiosity as well as completely being drawn in both to the lifestyle and the man. I found it odd and sad at the same time that the crux of the love story was probably more romantic and passionate than most straight movies.
The middle, which was kind of a mellowing in relationship and division of roles in career and sex partner, with Scott refusing a lot and Lee wandering. But didn't Scott himself drive Liberace to such a fate? Some choices are hilarious, seeing Scott standing at attention from the toes up, clad in white, with a diamond Chauffeur's Cap. There was probably even a fur coat in there, who knows.
To some extent, I feel the third act in the movie really was more or less the same thing I'd seen in two other movies. One partner out to hurt the other partner in whatever way they could. But when Scott starts to sell off his jewelry, sad but previously used.
The last part of the third act was the lawsuit. And I found the lawsuit quite boring. Yes, we know he loses, and do we want to know or care why? Not really. But maybe you want to know what Scott gets in exchange for keeping quiet. Later, Scott reads Lee's autobiography, "The true love of my life is Sonia Henie," the book supposedly says. Even in death, Liberace's handler (played by Dan Ackroyd) absolves Lee of being gay. Only the we and the coroner can vindicate Scott.