Film review: Behind The Candelabra (15) - 7.5/10

Michael Douglas as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra.
Michael Douglas as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra.
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Liberace always bowed down at the altar of excess, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful,” he famously proclaimed.

No doubt the flamboyant entertainer would have approved of the bouffant hairstyles, outlandish fashions and gaudy decor – referred to as “palatial kitsch” – festooning Steven Soderbergh’s handsome biopic.

Based on the autobiography of Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson, Behind The Candelabra exposes the tormented showman behind the fur-lined and sequin-bedecked myth.

Soderbergh’s film traces the men’s relationship from a fortuitous first meeting in 1977 to Liberace’s death bed in 1987, when the entertainer attempted to keep his HIV status secret from fans and the gutter press.

Richard LaGravenese’s script unfolds in chronological order, peppered with tart one-liners (“After cooking and sex, I think shopping is the reason to get up every day”), gifted largely to Michael Douglas as the fleet-fingered musician, who sued anyone that dared to suggest he was gay.

It’s a tour de force portrayal, far removed from the actor’s Oscar-winning skullduggery as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, that would be a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination had the film not been conceived for US cable television.

Echoing the sentiments of Liberace (“I love to give people a good time”), Behind The Candelabra trades biting wit, romance and heartbreak to lay bare the emotional bonds between Scott and his famous partner.

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