Yay Michael Douglas!

Oh, and the rest of the movie was awesome too!

Also, it kinda sucks seeing Soderbergh bowing out of directing after this film[1].  He’s strangely hit and miss (Traffic was fantastic, while the Informant! was a really weird film), but he takes a lot of chances, both large and small, and by the looks of his filmography (just direction wise), he’s made a lot of interesting films.  I have to see a lot of them still (I own his version of Solaris, and Magic Mike is now showing on HBO), but I say that for a lot of films period.

Anyway, Behind the Candelabra.  The film was adapted from Scott Thorson’s book of the same name, where Thorson detailed his relationship with Liberace from 1977 until the latter’s death in 1987.  The limited focus of the film helps a lot; other bits (Liberace’s deathbed vision from the 1960s, his lamenting of not acting more) is told through clever flashbacks and everyday conversations.  The focus seems to be more on Thorson though, given the autobiographical nature of his book: he encounters Liberace at one of his Vegas shows, and stays in contact with him until they start living together (Thorson is hired as Liberace’s chauffeur).  The story recounts other incidents as well: Liberace getting a face lift in 1979, amongst other things (with Thorson getting some changes made as well), the slow falling out between the two in 1981 and the eventual palimony suit in 1984.  There’s no singular fault either between these two, as Liberace was always one to eye younger men he found attractive (he made room for Thorson by kicking out his previous house guest), while Thorson fell into a heavy drug habit of diet pills and coke.

Liberace himself was an interesting individual.  I read the Wikipedia entry on him (as one would when they’d like to get some info on a person): he was outgoing and flamboyant, a showman in every sense of the word.  He was very Catholic, yet very materialistic.  He was secretive too, as he fought to keep his gay identity from being known (with settled lawsuits in the 50s and 60s, as well as the Thorson palimony suit).  This brief clip kinda explains most of that, actually:

Here he is playing his Boogie Woogie:

Crazy good.

The big appeal, besides a film on Liberace, was seeing Michael Douglas in a leading role again.  I forgot for a moment that he was in Haywire, though mostly in support.  Here, he’s pretty much in command, and he’s great.  He embraces what made Liberace completely: the showman, the flamboyant and outrageous, and the private and controlling.

Everyone else was good as well.  Matt Damon played Thorson well, despite being a bit overaged for the role (apparently Thorson was in his early 20s when they met?).  His caution gave way eventually to a deep love, both familial and sexual, though he did himself in with his hard drug use.  Dan Aykroyd was Seymour Heller, Liberace’s manager, and Rob Lowe was Dr Startz, Liberace’s plastic surgeon.

Actually, one thing that was really good was the makeup in the movie.  Besides making both Douglas and Damon look younger, both Aykroyd and Lowe were practically unrecognizable.  Lowe was especially creepy: I’m guessing Dr Startz was a result of his own face lift overuse, with his narrow slit eyes and a smile that barely crossed his face but was just weird.

Behind the Candelabra has been playing late on HBO pretty much all this past week since its debut.  Definitely check it out, it’s great.

[1] This interview with Soderbergh is really good, and also gets into the background of the making of the film.