Behind the Candelabra (2013)

behind the candelabra poster 2013 movie liberace
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

A good looking, strong acted film

A true story leads little room for surprise

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Behind the Candelabra

Studio:  HBO Films

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  May 21, 2013 (Cannes)/May 26, 2013 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


I’ll tickle your ivories!

Liberace (Michael Douglas) is on top of the world as a successful Las Vegas performer late in his career when he meets seventeen year old Scott Thorson (Matt Damon).  Instantly falling for him, Liberace invites Scott to live with him and makes him part of his show.  As the two grow closer, they form a sort of family…but things change as Liberace begins to grow more controlling and Scott becomes involved with drugs.  What started out as electric ends up in court…but can Scott or Liberace make amends?

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra is based on Scott Thorson’s 1988 memoir Behind the Candelabra:  My Life with Liberace.  The movie was released in theaters overseas, but premiered on HBO on May 26, 2013.  The film was nominated for a number of awards including winning Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Douglas), and Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special (Soderbergh) and nominations for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Damon), and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Scott Bakula).


It’s a me! Liberace!!!

When looking back on Liberace, it is amazing that no one really made connections he was gay…the movie kind of looks at this aspect of Liberace’s life and I think people who grew up watching Liberace would almost feel dumb.  What is nice about this movie is that neither Liberace nor Thorson is painted as “the good guy” (despite being based on Thorson’s own book).

The movie is a biopic of (for the most part) the last span of Liberace’s life.  The movie doesn’t pull any punches.  Liberace comes off as controlling and virtually enslaves this young guy with money and affection…but threatens to remove this love as punishment.  Scott seems a bit like a user at points by taking advantage of an old guy that is enthralled with him, but also feels like a victim by being a doll to Liberace who cuts him the way he wants.  Liberace refers to his dogs the same way he refers to Thorson and it is demeaning.


First young women go after me in every movie…now, I’ve switched to young men…

Both Douglas and Damon give it all for the movie.  Douglas plays up the part and gets Liberace’s tone right.  Sometimes, he looks a lot like Liberace, but other times he looks like Michael Douglas.  Damon kind of reminds me of Jon Heder in Blades of Glory with his flowing wig, but he does get past this bad hairpiece to give a great performance…the only regret I have is that he isn’t younger, because it would have been easier to see how enthralling it would be for Thorson if he was really seventeen and having money just thrust at him.  The movie also has fun appearances by Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, and Debbie Reynolds as Liberace’s famed mother.


Don’t you want me?

Visually, Soderbergh always has a vision.  I like about half of Soderbergh’s stuff, and this movie does classify as “good” Soderbergh.  With the quality performances and great look from the movie, it goes to show how far TV movies have come in the wake of things like HBO and Showtime series that push the limits.

I suppose that time was different when Liberace was around, but it seems pretty obvious that he was gay, and maybe everyone knew in their minds but it didn’t matter because he entertained them.  With today’s internet and flashy world, Liberace would have barely made waves in his lifestyle since others are living it up much larger than he did.  When Liberace lived however, this would not have been acceptable to public knowledge regardless how much people liked him…what went on behind closed doors stayed behind closed doors.  Fortunately, Behind the Candelabra took time to explore this.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response