Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Some High and Low Notes for 'Behind the Candelabra'

What did you think of "Behind the Candelabra," HBO's blockbuster Liberace biopic based on ex-lover Scott Thorson's tell-all book? Michael and I watched it with bated breath and, all in all, both enjoyed it. Michael was slightly disappointed, said he felt like it would have been better -- or perhaps made more sense -- if there had been one (or two) tender moments between Lee and Scott during the "happy" period that showed there was a connection between them that was deeper than what Lee felt for the other guys who revolved in and out of his life. (We're led to believe that in the end, but he saw nothing but coldness and animosity -- so much for the "love story" we were promised!) I thought given the nature of their relationship, perhaps there weren't any beyond what was depicted. (How genuine and tender are you ever with someone you're basically having sex with for money?) For this reason, Michael began to not care much about either of them as it wore on. I, on the other hand, was pretty entranced by it all. My only quibble was that I didn't really believe that Scott was as wholesome and naive as Matt Damon portrayed him to be. I didn't read his book, and I guess it's possible that you turn really trashy after going through something like this, but for someone who wound up being a lifelong user, criminal and grifter of sorts -- with alleged ties to the mob and the Wonderland murders -- it didn't seem to jibe with the sweet and innocent Scott we met on screen. Great job by Michael Douglas and Rob Lowe -- and Damon for seeming far younger than he really is. And to the brilliant makeup and prosthetics crew, who could have saved "J. Edgar" from being a laughingstock had they worked on that one, too.

Would love to hear what you thought -- tell me in the comments!

"Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace" has long been out of print. But it's now available as an e-book HERE.I've just added it to my summer reading list!


Anonymous said...

Call me a bitter old queen, but I was (pleasantly) shocked that they showed some of the moments they did -- Damon fucking Douglas as he snorted poppers, was, well, accurate... but I kept getting the feeling throughout the movie that the Thorson role was written with someone else in mind, and maybe Soderbergh should have approached (if he didn't) Channing Tatum for the role. I'm not sure Tatum could handle the depth of the role, but the butt shots wouldn't have been a problem. And they could have just filmed the middle parts with fat Scott when Tatum was in one of his fat stages, too.

kevin said...

I enjoyed it. And not just because Matt Damon showed his ass three times. They sort of blurred over the fact that Scott was 16 when he first met Liberace (albeit, Damon is fabulous looking at 42). I thought that Michael Douglas's(very accurate) imitation of Liberace's voice would grate on me, but it was sorta like Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote--you just got used to the voice. I thought the script was excellent. Sure, there could have been more o everything but condensing roughly 8 to 10 years down to two hours requires editing. I thought the imaginary funeral was wonderful and the producers certainly put every cent of the budget up on the screen--it looked great. And so did Matt Damon's butt.

Blobby said...

I would say calling it a 'blockbuster' would be a stretch. Just bc you throw Debbie Reynolds, Dan Akroyd and (ugh) Paul Reiser in it......

I find Michael Douglas to be a little skeevey anyways, so I didn't think the role was a stretch for him.

Damon did a good job, I thought.

But it was Rob Lowe who stole every second he was in - and rightfully so. He was genius.

But I agree w Michael that I cared less and less about either of them as the time went on. I thought there was much more to possibly delve into if they got more into Lee's background, but they were pulling from Thorson's book and not a total biography of Liberace.

I don't think they couldn't get this movie to play in theaters because it was "too gay", I think they couldn't get into into there bc no one would go and pay $12 for such a tepid story and portrayal - and with a very limited audience.

dw said...

all I get is this . Matt Damon was the bravest here . Hes the only one with a real career who has anything to lose by doing this movie. I thought you could have put Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in these roles and you would have had a good start at Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf. At times it to me gets that ugly. Bald , the only part of the show that floored me he was bald. I thought Michael Douglas butched his voice up here and nothing really gay about Damons acting. I though it showed what it was supposed to, someone from foster care who believed the lies of a sexual predator , and became addicted trying to please. Everybody knows that the minute you get content in a gay relationship, you start to eat normally and you put on weight. HERES MY ADONIS DONT TAKE THE DRUGS .... No free lunch, Thorson couldn't have been either as good or stupid as portrayed. Loved Cheyenne Jackson , Debbie Reynolds unfortunately unrecognizable but accurate , Rob Lowe reminded me of the two siamese in Lady and the Tramp (Disney )
evil evil evil. It was entertaining . I thought I was underwhelmed and I would look at the clock and forty minutes had passed. B+ .Dead 26 years fans many dead also wouldn't have played on the big screen. Damon again the only one with anything to lose here. Would always fuck Scott Bakula. I dont feel like I wasted my time.

Anonymous said...

I did not watch this, even though I wanted to, because I felt disgusted by Weinstein, Douglas, Damon, etc.... Thorson is a two-bit criminal whose life is and was tragic. But it was the life he had, and nothing can change that truth. However, you would think that the Hollywoods who took Thorson's story would have had the maturity and principle to pay Thorson fairly for presenting his story. Instead, they bought it for next to nothing ( $ 100,000 ) and just gave the money to Thorson in a lump sum. Really? That is so predatory. They could have set Thorson up with an annuity and helped him have some semblance of a normal life but like Liberace, they just used Thorson for their own wants and desires. So Thorson got used as a whore again. Surely Thorson did not come to the table with clean hands, that is certain. But Hollywood blatantly and whorishly stole candy from a baby and I find that to be pathetic. Thorson sits in jail for some silly stupid theft while Hollywood vultures his sad story. Someone should have had some conscience.

Anonymous said...

might as well weigh in, b- or c+ for me. no doubt it was from scott's perspective, but nothing salacious here - this story seems all too familiar.

damon, reynolds, bakula, aykroyd and reiser were great, lowe was creepy, and douglas did a great job, but i was never fully convinced by his performance - i kept seeing douglas, not liberace.

damon's butt stole the movie!

Mark from NYC said...

I thought that it was very good... technically. But you didn't get a reason to care for LIberace at all. Thorsen was pretty sympathetically portrayed, I thought. But was there a happy or blissful moment for them ever? Did they ever laugh or enjoy each other? Just one old queen buying love and the young queen too desperate for it.

BTW, what makes you go from sweet at 16 to trashy at 22 is drug and alcohol addiction -- that's what ruins lives, not sugar daddies.

Besides the fact that they used Bronski Beat's 1984 version of 'I Feel Love' in a bar scene set in 1977 and not Donna Summer's version of that year, most every other aspect of the late 70s and early 80s was perfectly depicted. Including how the early 80s really looked more like the 70s than the mid 80s. And how, no matter the year, there was always that Scott Bakula guy, always in a Speedo, always in his hair-band hair.

Mike Johnson said...

I appreciated the film, but didn't love it, for some of the reasons Michael had. The whole thing was kind of ugly and grotesque from the beginning. It was very well done, so it certainly doesn't qualify as camp. Michael Douglas, Matt Damon and Rob Lowe were convincing (although Damon does seem the same in every role he does, even this one, but it worked). I am glad I watched it, but I don't need to ever see it again.