Entertainment :: Television

Behind the Candelabra

by Louise Adams
Tuesday Sep 17, 2013
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Reportedly "Behind the Candelabra" is Steven Soderbergh’s last film. If so, his swan song needs a fluffer.

The biopic was made for the big screen, but ended up on cable due to graphic-like sex, I guess, but maybe there were also concerns about the film’s flat, one-dimensional storyline.

Michael Douglas effectively mimics Lee Liberace’s Wisconsin whine, and embodies his lust for all things tacky, from elaborate candlesticks to boy toys. Mr. Showmanship meets and adopts (almost literally) blonde Adonis Scott Thorson, and they begin an ostentatious yet extremely dull five-year affair, mostly dressing the young man as a limo driver in the Vegas show. Matt Damon as Thorson is unafraid to be mounted by Douglas, among other indignities, and maybe he was true to Thorson (on whose autobiography the film is based), but the guy is a snore -- a vapid sugar baby just along for the ride.

Steven Soderbergh’s supposed swan song needs a fluffer.

The costume designer and hairdresser must have had fun gathering the biggest and most tinted aviator glasses they could find, and cutting winged bangs and shaggy shags. Rob Lowe out-creeps Liberace as plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz, who sports frosted and tipped locks framing a taut, emotionless face, looking like a Michael Jackson death mask. In addition to many operations on the pianist, he also sculpts Thorson into a Liberace lookalike.

We get it. You weren’t allowed to be gay during this time, but the coping behaviors of gross excess like floor-length ermine cloaks, crystal everything, and penile implants were almost as repugnant. Even moments when we might empathize with young Walter’s (his real name) childhood -- as hinted about by his Polish mother Frances (well-played by an unrecognizable Debbie Reynolds) -- are lost in the Vegas mansion. We never get to see the real Lee under that toupee.

Even the film’s title is a sex joke, using "Behind" rather than "Beyond" or something softer.

"Behind the Candelabra"
Blu-ray
$13.49
http://www.hbo.com/movies/behind-the-candelabra/index.html

Louise Adams is a writer, actor, educator, yogini and nom de guerre.

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