Behind the Candelabra
is a 2013 HBO film directed by Steven Soderbergh
and starring Michael Douglas
and Matt Damon
. It details the tumultuous relationship between famed pianist Liberace (Douglas) and his much younger lover Scott Thorson (Damon). Their relationship starts out loving and caring, but eventually becomes strained due to Liberace's straying, his manipulative nature, and Thorson's drug use.
Originally meant as a theatrical release, the film ended up being made at HBO, apparently because the major studios thought it was "too gay
" (it did, however, get released in cinemas internationally). It premiered at the Cannes film festival to great reviews, particularly for the performances from Douglas, Damon, and Rob Lowe.
It was the final film to be scored by Marvin Hamlisch.
This movie provides examples of:
- Bi the Way: Scott is bisexual, although he is never seen with a woman during the movie.
- Camp: It's hard to do a movie about Liberace that isn't.
- Conspicuous Consumption: Hoo boy. Liberace loves to shop. And his houses are a showcase for his wealth.
- Covert Pervert: Liberace's public image is very clean cut. What he gets up to in private however...
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Both Liberace and Scott to varying degrees.
- Dawson Casting: Scott Thorson was 17 when he first met Liberace. Matt Damon is in his mid-40s.
- Development Hell: Soderbergh first approached Michael Douglas to play Liberace when they were filming Traffic in 2000. The movie was supposed to begin filming in 2008, but had to be postponed due to Douglas's fight with throat cancer.
- Dodgy Toupee: Subverted. Scott is shocked a few weeks into the relationship when he catches Lee without his wig, who is very vain about being seen without it.
- Dirty Old Man: Liberace is depicted as having a very high sex drive, a preference for young men, and a habit of visiting adult establishments.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: Par for the course with Liberace's stage costumes.
- Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: Both Scott and Liberace. When he runs low on cash, Scott ends up pawning most of his jewelry collection to fund his drug habit.
- Fantasy Sequence: While sitting in the church during Liberace's funeral, Scott imagines a far grander send-off, with Liberace playing "The Impossible Dream" and flying over the stage.
- Gay Conservative: Liberace.
- Gilligan Cut: The movie cuts from Liberace asking Scott for them to have an open relationship to him shouting at Scott because he believed he was seeing somebody else.
- Jitter Cam: Used in a scene where Scott is high and chatting with his drug dealer.
- It's All About Me: Liberace, to the point where a portrait of him is used as a visual reference for Scott's plastic surgery.
- Liberace's mother, who comes off as extremely selfish and only cares about how rich and famous Lee is.
- May-December Romance: Liberace and Scott. Liberace is shown to like young lovers.
- My Beloved Smother: Lee's mother, who is always angling to try to move in with her son.
- Parental Favouritism: Mama Liberace isn't interested in having her other two children visit. It's the famous and talented Lee that she wants to see.
- Pet the Dog: Scott endears himself to Liberace by offering to get medicine for his elderly blind poodle named "Baby Boy".
- Pretty in Mink: The capes Liberace wears on stage. Scott is also given a number of fur coats to wear.
- Shrine to Self: Liberace's mansion, which has portraits, memarobilia and trinkets pertaining to the man everywhere.
- Weight Woe: Stacking on weight while enjoying the opulence of Liberace's mansion is what drives Scott into drug abuse.
- Transparent Closet: Liberace puts on a public show of heterosexuality (even after his death), but everybody close to him knows he is gay.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Courtesy of a very drunken Scott in the adult shop.
- What Might Have Been: Before Soderbergh became attached to the project, Robin Williams was considered for the role of Liberace.