• Network: HBO
  • Series Premiere Date: May 26, 2013
  • Season #: 1
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 69 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 62 out of 69
  2. Negative: 5 out of 69

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  1. May 27, 2013
    10
    I adored this film. I saw Liberace on TV in the 1950s when I was a teenager and couldn't figure out what the fuss was about. Why would anyone, especially woman, find this mincing drag queen a heartthrob. (I loved Elvis). All the massively crazy glitz was considered low class and trashy at the time--the word camp hadn't yet been invented and homosexuality was still considered a perversion. How times have changed--thank God. Douglas and Damon turn what could have been a travesty into a treasure. Douglas' performance portraying a man who was a joke in his own time into a flesh and blood tragic figure is brilliant. He skates a very fine line between caricature and flesh and blood, never missing a beat. Damon is equally incredible. He turns a stereotypical pretty boy who seemingly just wants Liberace's money and reflected glory, into a tragic figure in his own right. Yes, he wants to take Liberace's money, but he also wants to be loved by him. Rob Lowe as the plastic surgeon is hysterical, and so is Debbie Reynolds as Liberace's mother. A great biopic is almost impossible to make, especially about someone as ridiculous as Liberace but Soderbergh has managed. The graphic sex scenes reveal character and aren't thrown in just for prurient interest. Bravo to HBO for taking this on. Yet another example of their support of great, if controversial, film. Expand
  2. Jun 2, 2013
    10
    This is an epic movie. I didn't know what to expect and was curious because of the reviews i have read. And then.. it blew me away, it took me completey by surprise. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon deserve every award of this planet for their performance, i cannot praise this enough. Also stellar was the direction, costume, make up, art direction. Seriously one of the best movies in tv-history. Chapeau!! Expand
  3. Jun 9, 2013
    10
    This really is a perfect movie in every way. The performances are stellar, especially Douglas's. The film is centered around the side of Liberace that he hid from the public until his death i.e his life as a homosexual and the young lovers he was involved with. It's a very touching film but it left me feeling very sad, even to the point of tears. I was tempted to mark it down for that but it wouldn't be right to do so. It's similar to Boogie nights in the way that everything descends into chaos and heartache, but without the comical undertones. A part of me wishes that the film had focused more on what made Liberace great instead of his weaknesses, but I suppose the public already knew that side of the story. It's a shame to hear that this film wasn't released in America due to it's overt 'gayness.' I thought American society had moved passed that, but I suppose they're predominantly Christian so...but anyway you don't see that much. Just some light bumming. Expand
  4. Jun 9, 2013
    9
    I wasn't really sure what to expect from this film, whether it would be a comedy or drama, etc. I have to say I was mesmerised throughout. The performances by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are so convincing I had to keep reminding myself that these were two well known film stars who have stared in films such as the Bourne films and Wall Street. They were totally convincing. Couple that with the interesting story, the garish lifestyle of Liberace and a strong supporting cast and this film satisfied on all levels. The only small complaint I would make is that, as someone who grew up not really knowing much about Liberace's vast popularity in his heyday, I would have liked to see more of his music and showbiz performances in the film. Expand
  5. Jun 29, 2013
    7
    Steven Soderbergh’s tentative final film is a biography of Liberace, with the cast of Michael Douglas (his post-cancer comeback) and Matt Damon, it still fails to secure a cinema release in USA, which comes across as a bummer since after BROKENBACK MOUNTAIN (2005, 10/10) and MILK (2008, 8/10), in the mainstream media, gay films haven’t yet progressed much thanks to the conservative top brass in the Hollywood. Anyway, trends will change eventually, nothing can stop it, USA made a great advancement several days ago and the rest of the world will follow.

    Michael Douglas stuns with his effeminate mimicry (on stage is the lilting rendition) in the film as the world-known pianist, a flamboyant closeted-man, a selfish control-freak obsesses with his complexion and his tabloid news, but he is also a genius player, an apt entertainer, although the taste he denotes is tawdry and grandiose, he is a nouveau-riche would make the rest of the world grudge. Though hobbled by my ignorance of Liberace, Douglas’ incarnation is a self-challenging ambition and now an Emmy award is low-hanging fruit for him, and the make-up team too is awesome, both the face-lifting and AIDS-afflicting guises are eyeball-grabbing.

    Matt Damon is his Adonis baby-boy Scott Thorson, albeit both him and Douglas are two-decades older than their characters in real age, it is a long-delayed meaty role for Matt, in lieu of the film is based on Scott’s own version of the story, he hogs an ever longer screen time than Liberace, one might find him in lack of a sense of queerness in his rough-edginess (by comparison, Boyd Holbrock is more accurate in presenting his allure as another young flesh for Liberace), but the choice itself flouts the stereotype, and Damon runs the gamut of emotions from a naive boy falls for an elder man to a meds-addicted fop cannot get over with his philandering significant other, his best performance so far!

    Two highlights from the supporting group, Rob Lowe, whose face undergoes an extreme elevation, plays deadpan humor at its best as the plastic surgeon; the legendary Debbie Reynolds, also stands out as Liberace’s mother whose exotic accent and childish playfulness leave a strong impression from her brief stint in the film.

    Out of my wayward obstinacy, I put Damon ahead of Douglas regarding the performance, but the film is a well-orchestrated drama, Soderbergh steers clear of any offshoots and centers on the troubled relationship which is tedious but typical in a mundane world. We sneer it on the screen whilst in reality we tread the same water again and again.
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  6. Sep 20, 2013
    0
    I like Matt Damon, but hes not good enough for me to finish this movie for.I randomly chose this on Demand, and had to bail fast. The Relationships between the male characters was unbearable.
  7. Jun 8, 2013
    10
    This, a candidate for the best picture of the year, is not even getting a cinema release in the U.S. as its subject matter was considered too gay for mass consumption. This is not only a shame for potential audiences who will miss out, but also denies stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon from getting the Oscar nominations they so richly deserve. Emmys and Golden Globes will surely compensate. Douglas, an actor who I have always found to be too serious in his roles seems to be relishing his part here as the flamboyant entertainer Liberace without ever making him into a caricature. He somehow seems to embody the spirit of the late entertainer whilst not being a carbon copy. Damon, likewise, demonstrates his best in the more demanding role of Scott Thorson who for a number of years was the entertainer's live in lover. His transformation from Naive teenager to jealous boyfriend is expertly handled, but could so easily have been overplayed. Other performances are all good and I didn't recognize Debbie Reynolds as Liberace's mother. Rob Lowe is just fabulous.
    Based on Thorson's book the screenplay is free flowing and as delivered by this perfect cast is delicious to savour. Steven Soderbergh applies the right techniques and camera shots to splendid effect in every scene which is also an Art-Director's dream. Soderbergh's retirement from the industry will be a big loss. With this film and 'Side Effects' earlier in the year he at least goes out on a high.
    Make-up is also very good in key scenes. The film is simply not to be missed, so thank god for HBO for giving us this little gem.
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  8. Jun 17, 2013
    9
    From the very beginning of the film I knew this was going to be a rock solid drama. The trailer is completely accurately gives you a sneak peak into a great film that has all you want; believable acting, costumes, setting, musical performance and surprisingly comedy.

    There are sex scenes to those you might be ambiguous about seeing this movie. They are quite tolerable as you don't see
    any penetration or anything too vulgar. There is one scene with Matt Damon onto top of Michael Douglas that is quick and not graphic. Most of the sex is discussed or occurs of screen.

    Mostly surprisingly as I mentioned before is the comedy element. It is not obvious if it was intentional or a result of us now knowing what these well dressed men were up to. Either way Rob Lowe's stiff facial expressions are poignantly funny.

    If you have any interest in seeing this film I highly recommend that you do see it. Films like these don't come along that often; it gives shows us Liberace's lifestyle, his showmanship, the nature of gay relationships in the 70's & 80's, and has a respectfully emotional ending.
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  9. Jun 11, 2013
    10
    Michael Douglas nailed it. Blown away by his performance. Once again HBO takes a story that sounds quite dull and turns it into something epic. Possible one of the greatest tv films I have ever seen.
  10. Jul 27, 2013
    9
    i totally underestimated this film. Who wouldn't hough the story of lLiberaces' relationship with his secret lover made by a TV company no less. Lame you'd think as you passed this film off but I urge anyone and everyone to watch it. It is the character study of Scott as he becomes Liberaces' companion, lover and eventually dependent. The story is brilliantly told over the course of the relationship showing Scotts' initial hesitation to the full blown embrace of Liberaces' lifestyle and eventually the falling apart of their world. Michael Douglas' portrayal of Liberace was perfect. Matt Damon too is brilliant showing reluctance, joy and jealousy without saying very much. the supporting cast too were brilliant. I also loved the way the imagery repeated. I found this film so moving and the characters great.
    Rating 9 out of 10
    A real hidden gem
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  11. Jun 15, 2013
    9
    Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are revelations here, giving two of their best performances ever. Both actors deserve Emmy Awards for these performances. Bravo to all involved.
  12. Jun 6, 2013
    10
    I loved this movie. The best movie HBO has produced in two years. Michael Douglas does a rare thing. H plays an icon of entertainment and comes through with flying colors. Matt Damon is fantastic is his love and has the difficult job od portraying a younger man and making you wonder with he was using Liberace or did he really love him, the movie effectively as a hypocrite, condemning people for gay, yet be gay himself. a remarkable achievement. Expand
  13. Jun 23, 2013
    7
    I hope Hollywood is kicking itself for passing on the gloriously twisted ‘Behind The Candelabra’. Apparently it was deemed too gay and it was left to trailblazers and all round good guys HBO to stump up the cash and make it for television, which is a shame for Michael Douglas as it will eliminate him from winning certain awards for his under the skin portrayal of the flamboyant Pianist Liberace. For all the wealth, glitz, glamour and camp contained in the film it is not shy of showing us the darker side and it in these parts that the movie really shines. Matt Damon plays Liberace’s young man servant and lover Scott, moulded (literally) into his own image and thrust from dog handler to a lifestyle beyond his wildest fantasies. What follows is a real character study about relationships, human nature and co-dependency. Its warts and all as we see the couple buckle under pressure, insecurities and the ridiculousness of the excessive yet closeted lifestyle Liberace has surrounded himself with. Eventually Scott is suffocated by his lover and can’t cope with the insular bubble he has been forced to exist in. Here then we are witnesses to the deterioration of the relationship, Scott turns to drugs, Liberace to Younger men, it’s a car crash but one that you can’t help but stare at. Soderbergh knows how to direct and get the best out of his actors, the brief but startling turn by Rob Lowe as Dr. Jack Startz is a scary highlight, but this really is Douglas’s film, he is the larger than life character on and off the stage brilliantly balancing charming and creepy. I’m not sure what real fans of Liberace will make of the movie but as a humorous and at times enlightening delve into the seedier side of fame and love it works, being both honest and entertaining. Expand
  14. Nov 5, 2013
    9
    I was completely hypnotized by the wonderful performances of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Mr. Douglas deserved to be awarded for this. The costumes, make up, and art direction are highly successful in capturing the extravagance in which Liberace lived his life. Another brilliant (although sad) movie from director Steven Soderbergh, a biopic that displays a romance from its beginning to its inevitable end. Expand
  15. Dec 23, 2013
    8
    A well-acted and well-crafted film that is as funny as it is serious. Michael Douglas is terrific. I didn't think he had this sort of range. The supporting cast, notably Matt Damon, are good as well.
  16. Sep 1, 2014
    7
    Coming from a generation that is largely unaware of Liberace, I was both intrigued and fascinated by this man's showmanship and personal life with Scott. You'll forget you're watching a movie, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are that perfect.
  17. Sep 21, 2013
    10
    Unbelieveable performances. A Hollywood movies of what takes place behind the scenes. I forgot it was Douglas and thought it was Liberace, just incredible. Watch for Debbie Reynolds as his mother and Rob Loew was pitch perfect in his role as the plastic surgeon.
  18. Jan 9, 2014
    7
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Regista dalla carriera saltabeccante, Soderbergh si lascia volentieri andare ad azzardi che non sempre ben capace di padroneggiare. In questo caso, però, la sfida può dirsi vinta: non era certo semplice mettere in immagini la sceneggiatura di Richard LaGravenese tratta dalle memorie di Scott Thorson sul rapporto tra quest’ultimo e Liberace, a partire dalle idee preconcette che possono azzoppare una progetto simile. Pur in un periodo di outing diffusi (e qualche anno dopo ‘I segreti di Brokeback Mountain’), nessuno negli Stati Uniti ha voluto produrre il film tranne la rete via cavo HBO e difatti imdb lo cataloga come ‘TV Movie’ con la conseguenza che la distribuzione in sala stata riservata al resto del mondo: benché l’argomento non sia certo dei più edificanti una persona famosa, ricca e anziana che ne soggioga, dal punto di vista sentimentale e psicologico, una con molti anni di meno per poi mettere al suo posto carne più fresca vien difficile pensare che problemi analoghi si sarebbero palesati in caso di personaggi di sesso differente. All’inizio degli anni settanta, Wladziu/Walter Liberace un pianista e intrattenitore di successo che si esibisce tra scenografie scintillanti (inclusi i candelabri sul pianoforte) e vestiti sfarzosi: forte di una carriera che ormai dura da trentacinque anni, ha accumulato milioni, case che offrono ogni lusso e una piccola corte che si occupa dei suoi affari. E’ omosessuale, ma lo nega (ha vinto anche un processo in merito): quando incontra il giovane Thorson, se ne invaghisce, molla il suo protetto del momento e inizia una relazione lunga sette anni costituita di passione e anche amore (almeno all’inizio), ma nella quale il più forte finisce per sopraffare l’altro il ragazzo accetta anche una plastica facciale per assomigliare al Liberace giovane. Tutto finisce nel peggiore dei modi davanti al giudice per una causa che lascia Scott con un pugno di mosche ma il legame, per quanto attenuato, sembra non spezzarsi mai. Il loro un rapporto pieno di zone oscure e di cose non dette, ma stupirebbe la sincerità in un mondo come quello in cui vivono: i palchi pacchiani su cui Scott, vestito da autista, accompagna Liberace per esibizioni davanti a folle di donne adoranti, le ville luccicanti ed esagerate del pianista, l’alcool e la droga a fiumi, una fauna umana pericolosa, tra l’avido e l’inquietante. Il film inizia su un tono più leggero, quasi di commedia, e si va incupendo con il passare dei minuti fino ad assestarsi su un registro drammatico: la transizione, però, non riesce appieno, pregiudicando così la riuscita complessiva con una seconda parte che non riesce a mantenere la brillantezza della prima per colpa di qualche ridondanza e indecisione di troppo. Si tratta di difetti che vengono comunque compensati dall’accurata ricostruzione d’epoca dal punto di vista visivo, ma anche dello spirito e, soprattutto, da una notevolissima prova degli attori. E’ doveroso citare almeno Rob Lowe, sotto il faticosissimo trucco del chirurgo estetico dotor Startz, Dan Aykroyd, in pratica irriconoscibile nei panni di Seymour Heller, e Debbie Reynolds che interpreta la madre di Liberace, Frances, ma chi eccelle dalla cintola in su sono i due interpreti principali, capaci di immedesimarsi nei due non facili ruoli sempre in primo piano con una bravura davvero sorprendente. Impossibile scegliere tra un Michael Douglas, forse al suo apice, che impersona un Liberace all’epoca dei fatti ben più giovane di lui e Matt Damon che riesce a vestire i panni di un ragazzo con la metà dei suoi anni senza che lo spettatore se ne accorga: sono loro il vero punto di forza di una pellicola che, pur non perfetta, val comunque la pena di essere vista (senza pregiudizi). Expand
  19. Sep 8, 2013
    9
    I don't usually watch stuff like this, but I really enjoyed this film, it's very, very good. Micheal Douglas is absolutely superb as Liberace, he's almost unrecognizable, and Matt Damon is very good also as Scott. What can I say? In this era of free entertainment, I get half way through most of the movies I download, and completely lose interest. I've watched this twice in the space of 48 hours, it's that good. Pity MD isn't in the running for an Oscar, because he thoroughly deserves one, the man is a screen legend, just like his father (Spartacus and The Vikings are two of my favourite films). Expand
Metascore
83

Universal acclaim - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 30
  2. Negative: 1 out of 30
  1. Reviewed by: Richard Porton
    May 30, 2013
    80
    In other hands, this scenario might have degenerated into a caricature-filled freak show. The fact that it doesn’t is attributable to Soderbergh’s relatively restrained direction and Douglas's and Damon’s intelligently modulated performances.
  2. Reviewed by: Bruce Miller
    May 29, 2013
    80
    Director Steven Soderbergh walks a tightrope between camp and class and, if you make it that far, pulls it off.
  3. Reviewed by: Emily Nussbaum
    May 28, 2013
    100
    Behind the Candelabra succeeds precisely because it doesn’t care much about health or what constitutes a good role model--it shows respect for a complicated marriage simply by making it real.