Behind the Candelabra Blu-ray Review
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, the star of the show, the man who’s famous throughout the world for his candelabra and his piano…”
That man, of course, is Mr. Showmanship himself, Liberace, a creation so extravagant and over-the-top that he just had to be a star. It’s hard not to stare at all of the rings, all of the sparkles, all of the lights. There were hundreds of fan clubs, thousands of shows and millions upon millions of dollars. It’s surprising it took this long for a biopic to be produced on The Glitter Man.
BEHIND THE CANDELABRA opens in 1977, when Liberace (Michael Douglas) was already decades into his career. After one of his many sold-out Las Vegas shows, he’s introduced to a feather-haired animal trainer named Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). Not long after, they’re sharing champagne in a hot tub, the showman revealing to his new friend his absolute loneliness. That night, Liberace hires Scott as his assistant and lover, and moves him into his mansion.
Scott is taken to the finest tailors, gifted the most luxurious cars, even allowed to put the finishing touches on the Christmas tree. But it becomes clear that Liberace’s intentions may have less to do with love, sex and respect than they do grooming, adoption papers and a pencil-thin plastic surgeon named Jack Startz (Rob Lowe). (Other key figures in this point of Liberace’s life include Hollywood producer Bob Black, played by Scott Bakula, agent Seymour Heller, played by Dan Aykroyd, and his mother, played by Debbie Reynolds.)
BEHIND THE CANDELABRA is directed by Steven Soderbergh, who has directed Douglas and Damon in a total of nine movies, and written by Richard LaGravenese (adapting Thorson’s 1988 memoir, Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace). Neither Soderbergh nor LaGravenese stoops to make the story campy, although it gets close simply because that was the subject’s nature, and we can’t help but laugh because, well, look at him. Instead, the movie highlights a rather twisted time in Liberace’s life and observes just what fame, narcissism, jealousy, and paranoia can do to a person, whether they’re a world-famous musician or a part-time chauffeur with a love for puppies.
BEHIND THE CANDELABRA premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or. A week after the festival closed, the movie premiered on HBO, allowing it to earn 15 Emmy nominations (including ones for Douglas, Damon, Soderbergh, Bakula, and Outstanding Miniseries or Movie). It is a strong and balanced picture that never lets itself or the actors simplify the characters. Douglas is phenomenal, giving one of his finest performances, up there with those in WALL STREET and WONDER BOYS. Damon, meanwhile, takes perhaps an even bigger risk in his portrayal of Thorson and comes out with one of the most layered performances of his career, showing various sides that range from doe-eyed admirer to raging drug addict.
With such remarkable performances, a focused screenplay and smooth direction, BEHIND THE CANDELABRA could have been released in theaters. As it is, it’s the best TV movie of the year.
BEHIND THE CANDELABRA BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. BEHIND THE CANDELABRA is an incredibly sleek production and this Blu-ray captures all of the glitz, glitter and extravagance of its subject.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish. This audio transfer offers a well-rounded presentation, with clean dialogue and robust sound.
The Making of BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (14:03): This featurette uses on-set footage and interviews (with Douglas, Damon, producer Jerry Weintraub, and more) to look at the movie’s production and Liberace himself.
Also included is a Digital Copy.