Tuesday, 28 May 2013

REVIEW - BEHIND THE CANDELABRA


Steven Soderbergh's impassive yet intrusive gaze is perfectly tailored to making a biopic. He is a most non-sensationalistic director, which means he is able to take moments of melodrama and moments of monotony and level them all out. Thus, as figures sit around a table conducting some common conversation, the effect is both gripping and entertaining. And as Liberace exits his chauffeur-driven bejewelled Rolls-Royce on stage, the 15-foot train of his $400,000 fur coat trailing behind him, the effect is unusually intimate. We are inside the heads of these colourful characters, not in the audience, casually observing. Once Matt Damon's Scott Thorson discovers that his fans have no idea that he's gay, we're right there with him, in the peculiar private world of Liberace, and from now on, we will be either on stage or backstage, behind the candelabra. Soderbergh's rejection of hyperbole in his directing is essential to grounding this story, what with its intrinsic flamboyance and eventual turmoil, and his decision to neither flatter nor belittle his subjects is admirable. Scott's naivety, Lee's self-absorption, and everything else about these vibrant characters, rendered so refreshingly humdrum by Soderbergh, is self-evident, and in no need of exaggeration, not least with such a solid ensemble of actors, many of whom have never been better. A final flourish of glitz and glamour jars with the abrupt scenes immediately prior, the likes of which often conclude Soderbergh films, but it's what Liberace would have wanted, I'm sure. Matt Damon's wet white thong won't soon be forgotten, yet every effort is made to obscure these actors' genitals. Gosh, get over it boys! That the outrageous production and costume design still pack quite the punch despite Soderbergh's persistent understatement is noteworthy.