Film Festival review: Behind the Candelabra

By Rachel Bache

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Kicking off this year's New Zealand International Film Festival was Steven Soderbergh's (Magic Mike, Ocean's Eleven) colourful and flamboyant film, Behind the Candelabra. Although it was deemed "too gay" for theatrical release in the US, the film went on to be selected for the Cannes film festival earlier this year and now New Zealand audiences get to have a taste of this extravagant Liberace biopic.

Based on Scott Thorson's autobiography, Behind the Candelabra takes us into the world of Las Vegas' '70s glitz and explores turbulent relationship between the young Scott Thorson and legendary pianist, Liberace, who is 40 years his senior.

Matt Damon (Thorson) and Michael Douglas (Liberace) share a powerful chemistry on screen, bringing both comedy and depth to their characters' intense love affair.

Damon's transformation physically and emotionally throughout the film is quite extraordinary, showing Thorson's downward spiral into jealously and drugs, due to the all-consuming influence of Liberace in his life.

Being more accustomed to seeing Douglas in films such as Wall Street or Haywire made his portrayal of the overly camp Liberace all the more refreshing. Walking the fine line of a deluded "old queen" and a controlling sex addict, Douglas makes you love and hate Liberace simultaneously. Rob Lowe as plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz was another highlight, bringing laughs to the theatre with his creepy, frozen-face. The overall tone of the film is an uneasy balance of comedy within drama, even during the more serious scenes there are still little moments that make it strangely light-hearted.

Not only was the acting fabulous, but Behind the Candelabra was shot beautifully too, with numerous bedazzling sets and costumes. Who knew so many rhinestones, diamantes and sequins could exist in one movie.

Stars: 4/5
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Matt Damon, Michael Douglas
Running time: 118min
Rating: TBC

For more showings of Behind the Candelabra see

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