Glittery Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra is 'fabulous'

Jun 7, 2013

Michael Douglas gives one of his best performances: shame he won't be able to compete for an Oscar

What you need to know
Steven Soderbergh's much vaunted Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra finally opens at UK cinemas today. Soderbergh (Side Effects, Oceans Eleven) directs the story of flamboyant pianist Liberace's secret affair with Scott Thorson, based on Thorson's memoir of the same title.

The film focuses on the six-year long secret relationship between Thorson (Matt Damon) and the older Liberace (Michael Douglas). After meeting Thorson at a concert, Liberace invites the naive young man to work for him and become his lover, but the unequal relationship soon begins to fall apart.

What the critics like
This exceptional biopic "proves why film still needs Steven Soderbergh", says Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. Soderbergh treats the material with his usual piercing intelligence, while Michael Douglas, as Liberace, gives one of his greatest ever performances.

"Behind the Candelabra is fabulous," says the Hollywood Reporter. It's superbly scripted, brilliantly directed, smart but never smarmy and led by a performance by Michael Douglas so good you often forget you're watching an actor - it's a winner all around.

"This tale of Liberace is a scream," says Kate Muir in The Times. The bespangled biopic camps and glamps it up to the nines, but Douglas plays the flamboyant, sequined pianist with a knowing twinkle that never tips over into parody.

What they don't like
Critics have almost nothing negative to say about the film. The only shame, as Empire's Dan Jolin notes, is that Behind the Candelabra "features a pair of performances that would scream Oscar had the film not been deemed 'too gay' for a US theatrical release".  (In America, it is an HBO television movie.)

Sign up for our daily newsletter