Based on the autobiography of Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson, Behind The Candelabra exposes the tormented showman behind the myth.
Soderbergh’s film traces the men’s relationship from a fortuitous first meeting in 1977 to Liberace’s death bed in 1987, when the entertainer attempted to keep his HIV status secret from fans and the press.
Richard LaGravenese’s script unfolds in chronological order, peppered with tart one-liners gifted largely to Michael Douglas as the musician, who sued anyone that dared to suggest he was gay.
It’s a tour de force portrayal, far removed from the actor’s Oscar-winning skullduggery as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, that would be a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination had the film not been conceived for US cable television.
Behind The Candelabra trades biting wit, romance and heartbreak to lay bare the emotional bonds between Scott and his famous partner.
The pressures of fame weigh heavily on Scott and the relationship flounders, causing Liberace to quip cattily: “I can’t stand it when you have a face like that, especially after all the money I paid for it.”
Damon has the less showy and more difficult role and he rises to the occasion.
The white hot glow of Douglas’s performance distracts from the sluggish pacing of the film’s final third and the broad sketching of peripheral characters.
However, the glitz and glamour are intoxicating and Soderbergh’s film swishes tantalisingly close to Liberace’s favourite and over-used superlative: “Fabulous!”
It is on at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on July 5, 6, 8,10 and 11