Rob Lowe called it "unlike any other movie, Gordon Gekko making love to Jason Bourne".
Certainly, 'Behind the Candelabra' has brought out hitherto undemonstrated aspects of both Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as they tell the story of supreme showman Liberace and his secret love, Scott Thurson, based on Thurson's real-life memoir.
Michael Douglas and Matt Damon star as Liberace and his secret love, Scott Thurson in 'Behind the Candelabra'
Similarly to 'Brokeback Mountain', this film - however camp it may be, "too gay" to be considered for studio release according to director Steven Soderbergh - is only incidentally about a same-sex relationship. In 'Brokeback's case, it was really about secrecy. In this case, it's really a black comedy about the age-old tragedy of passionate love gone bad, even if the surrounding props are fur stoles, on-stage Rolls Royces, jacuzzis and lots and lots of pianos.
As Thurson, Matt Damon ages convincingly from an impressionable teenager, caught up in the glittering world of one of the world's most exuberant entertainers. For an actor who's made his name as the beyond-macho Jason Bourne, he's totally at home as the passive but increasingly resentful stay-at-home 'chauffeur'.
Michael Douglas, equally masculine as Wall Street's Gordon Gekko, is somehow both recognisably himself but completely believable as Liberace, dancing around without his toupee, stroking his pet poodle Baby Boy and, as for any self-respecting lifelong bachelor, arguing with his ageing mother. How DID Liberace get away with suing Britain's Daily Mirror for alleging that he might just be the non-marrying type? He kind of explains in the film of his female fan base, "they see what they want to see."
But the real scene-stealer isn't Baby Boy, despite the poodle winning the Palme Dog Award. It's Rob Lowe as Liberace's go-to cosmetic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz, charged with the slightly creepy task of turning Thurson into a youthful version of Liberace himself - "I want to be everything to you, Scott, father, lover, brother, best friend, " Liberace tells his companion - and responsible for introducing Thurson to the 'Hollywood diet' of cocaine and amphetamines to keep the weight off.
Judging from his narrow-eyed insouciance, Startz has had a few too many goes with his own treatments, and Rob Lowe chews up the scenery. It's a part to die for, and only one of the joyful reasons to indulge in this camp-fest of love, betrayal and lots and lots of bling.
'Behind the Candelabra' is in cinemas now. Watch the trailer above, plus pictures below...
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