This no holds barred Liberace biopic produces what is arguably Michael Douglas’s greatest performance – and features some mind-blowing make-up effects
What’s the best special effect you’ve ever seen? King Kong on the Empire State building? The White House being blown up in Independence Day? The revolving corridor in Inception? The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park? The liquid metal in Terminator 2?
All were landmarks in their time, but there’s one in this Liberace biopic that is simply mind-blowing.
Whatever trickery was involved in making Michael Douglas look like he’s the sequined king of the keyboards tickling the ivories at the speed of light, the result is so seamless it doesn’t look like a special effect at all.
Christopher Walken’s recent film The Late Quartet was a typical example of how actors pretending to be musicians are rarely featured playing their instruments, but Behind the Candelabra doesn’t shirk anything.
Considering his recent throat cancer battle, this is arguably Michael Douglas’s greatest performance.
The same goes for Matt Damon as the animal-loving hired hand and lover, Scott Thorson.
Watching these two Hollywood A-listers kissing together in bed is as deliriously strange as seeing how the pair are transformed by plastic surgery and excess.
Damon, who fancies having a dimple in his chin – how very Kirk and Michael Douglas! – goes from looking like a chubby member of Bucks Fizz to Jon Bon Jovi and then a wild-eyed version of Freddie Starr.
Douglas without Liberace’s wig? Max Wall springs to mind.
It’s all a very bizarre mix, as befits the legend of the entertainer himself who sued anybody who said he was gay prior to dying from an Aids-related illness in 1987.
Quite the most intoxicating film that Traffic director Steven Soderbergh has ever made, Behind the Candelabra is a mixture of extraordinary humour, fluent directing and edge-of-seat performances – including Dan Aykroyd as agent Seymour Heller, Rob Lowe as Dr Jack Startz and Cheyenne Jackson as piano-playing rival Billy Leatherwood.
Much of the film has been shot with a very shallow depth of field, adding to the sense of intimate intensity.
Perhaps its most remarkable feature is nothing to do with what you see on screen.
Bizarrely, this HBO movie is not being given a cinema release in the US, robbing its leading stars of the chance to raid next year’s Oscars.
With Liberace’s ostentatious riches at its heart, it is, though, very much a film for the cinema.
Regardless of the story’s degree of historical accuracy, no doom-laden celebrity biopic has ever featured so much salacious fun. Nor has there been a film quite this entertaining all year.