ROK’s Flicks: Behind the Candelabra 20



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My mother was a pianist, and growing up in the 50s I knew much of Liberace’s music either via our LP records or Mum’s sheet music. But, we were never told of his “lifestyle” – it just wasn’t discussed, and, hey, who would have believed it anyway – it was just a stage show! Liberace went to extraordinary lengths to keep his homosexuality a secret.

The movie is a delight – both tragic and funny. There’s not too many belly laughs, but one occasion is when Liberace has had recent face lift surgery (another one) and he can’t close his eyes to sleep, because of the tautness of his skin – he looks like a snoring corpse.

It’s 1977 in Las Vegas, when Liberace (Michael Douglas) meets Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) a shy, country boy and employs him as his live-in companion. Swanning about in feather boas, diamanté-dripping G-strings, bouffant hair, they were fun, but slightly pathetic at times.

Liberace eventually moulds Scott with multiple plastic surgeries (Rob Lowe is outstanding as the cosmetic surgeon) and diet pills to be the perfect younger duplicate of himself. Liberace falls in love with Scott.

Eventually Scott becomes addicted to the pills and graduates to cocaine and Liberace moves on to Scott’s replacement – a younger, more sexually active partner. Scott’s life spirals downward & eventually he moves out and attempts to sue Liberace for his share of the wealth.

The film is based on Scott Thorson’s tell-all book, from the lavish lifestyles, through to Liberace’s HIV status. Sometimes it was like watching Phyllis Diller on uppers, or a car crash waiting to happen. Their highs and lows went from hilarious to miserable, and at times I felt I was a voyeur, it wasn’t always comfortable to watch, but never uneasy.

There’s a fabulous appearance of Debbie Reynolds as Liberace’s mother, truly theatrical. The music isn’t such a great part of the film, it’s more about his private life and maybe that’s the meaning of the title – what goes on Behind the Candelabra.


My rating: 3 glasses of bubbly and a little sip out of a 4th … with a bowl of nuts


Have you seen Behind the Candelabra? What did you think of it? Tell us below.

Rhonda O'Keefe

  1. I enjoyed this movie as well – it certainly is tragically funny and Michael Douglas, Matt Damon and Rob Lowe are excellent in their roles. However, I would suggest anyone looking for a ‘nice’ movie should give it a miss.

    1 REPLY
  2. A glimpse into a life only shared by so few. Loved it,, all glam and a sad life looking in but he lived in excess and I think it’s worth a look.

  3. Michael Douglas certainly has the voice down pat. I don’t think I would watch this movie, it would be too sad for me

  4. Wasn’t he a child molester!? People have stepped up and made claims of abuse at the hands of Liberace. Was this dealt with in the movie? Have not seen it.

    1 REPLY
    • No, it wasn’t mentioned in the movie. The film was based on a “post Liberace” book written by Scott Thorson

  5. Cluttered brain and lifestyle. Too complicated for me… not gunna bother going out of my way to watch chosen tragic life of the gifted. Sorry but im dealing with enough mishaps in my own little dark space

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