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Behind the Candelabra (DQ)


Stars: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, Paul Reiser

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Gay, ever-smiling, besequinned pianist and showman Liberace (Douglas), was watched and worshipped by millions on his TV show in the 1950s. This colourful biopic, virtually a two-hander and slightly the poorer for it, vividly recreates the glitz and the glamour, but concentrates on the last decade of the entertainer's life, culminating in his death from AIDs complications in 1987.

Would-be veterinarian Scott Thorson (Damon) meets Liberace in 1977 when offering to treat one of his dogs, and is soon drawn into the star's glittering home, a riot of beige and gold, as a replacement for his current 'protegé' (Cheyenne Jackson). The two men share a genuinely affectionate relationship at first (as well as a lavish lifestyle) but all too soon the older man is re-moulding the younger one in his own image, to the extent of getting him a facelift (the idea of Damon needing a facelift is in itself faintly ridiculous). Come the 1980s and with Thorson entrenched in drugs, things begin to fall apart.

Liberace certainly was a marvel on the keyboard, and Douglas' fingering (he doesn't play in real life) is a wonder to behold. As a performance, it's pretty good too, even if one performer never quite morphs into the other.

There are excellent cameos from a virtually unrecognisable Debbie Reynolds and Dan Aykroyd as the maestro's mom and agent, but dialogue wavers uneasily between the camp and the melodramatic, and the film could do with more music than it has, leaving one wondering how one-sided (the film's based on Thorson's book of the same name), this nonethleless entertaining account might be.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Entertainment-One. Colour by FotoKem.
118 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Jun 2013