When it’s a Saturday night and you’re trying to choose a movie to watch with your two younger brothers, the best choice is obviously Behind the Candelabra, the HBO film starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. It was between that and Enough Said, and honestly, if you don’t spend your time with your family trying to decide between a middle-age dating comedy starring James Gandolfini and a biopic about a closeted flamboyant piano player, than I feel sorry for you. I’ll never know if James and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss make it work (unless I actually watch the movie on my own), but I do know that Liberace had a lot of small dogs. I recommend this film highly…it’s full of laughs, tears, and weird tanlines on Matt Damon’s butt.
The boys and I didn’t know much about Liberace before watching, and let me tell you, Steven Soderbergh wasted no time at all explaining him. By that I mean that there is pretty much no explanation of who Liberace is, but that’s okay. You figure it out pretty easily (he’s shown performing and wearing his trademark glitzy clothes).
At the beginning of the film, Matt Damon befriends a mustachioed Scott Bakula, who honestly looks younger and better than he did on Quantum Leap. How are you aging backwards, Bakula? Share your secrets!
Wearing the hell out of that scarf
Scott Bakula, keeper of all knowledge, introduces Matt Damon to Liberace. Liberace is played by Michael Douglas, but it’s seriously like Michael Douglas BECAME Liberace. I read that Robin Williams was originally considered for the part, and now I can’t stop thinking about it.
He can’t believe it either.
What could’ve been!
Even though Liberace is eccentric at best, Matt Damon is still attracted to him…or at least he’s willing to move into Liberace’s insane mansion. Things are going well (or as well as they can when you’re dating someone who wears 60 pound fur coats) until Liberace decides to get some plastic surgery. He wants Matt Damon to get plastic surgery, too. And who does he want him to look like? Oh, you know…just a YOUNG LIBERACE.
Matt Damon is apprehensive, but Scott Bakula encourages him to go ahead with it. And no one in his right mind would ever deny the advice of Scott Bakula. So Matt Damon ends up looking like this:
Which is to say deeply upsetting (but with a chin dimple).
The surgery scenes are made more bearable (sorry, I mean DELIGHTFUL) because Rob Lowe is the surgeon. That’s right, Rob MF’ing Lowe is a plastic surgeon who’s clearly used a few too many of his own services.
No, he’s not skeptical…that’s just how he always looks.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to hear bizarre lines delivered by someone who looks like that and speaks like Chris Traeger…well, let me tell you, it’s wonderful.
Various other things happen. Dan Aykroyd is involved, as are Paul Reiser and Mike O’Malley. There are almost no women in this movie (aside from Liberace’s mother, they do not exist in his world). Liberace and Matt Damon, predictably, have a falling out. As Alex put it, “I guess what we learned is that you can take a lot of baths with someone, but never really be that close to them.” Indeed!
A few assorted thoughts about the film:
1. I was a little skeptical about Behind the Candelabra because it was an HBO film, but this is a legitimately good, well-made movie. Duh. Steven Soderbergh reportedly said that it aired on HBO because no studio wanted to take on such a gay movie. This is, admittedly, an extremely gay movie, but that’s not a bad thing.
2. Before it came out, I feel like a lot of the buzz related to “Michael Douglas + Matt Damon + GAY,” so I sort of assumed that sex would be a big part of the movie. It wasn’t! I mean, yes, it’s about Liberace’s and Matt Damon’s (the character has a name, but I’d rather call him Matt Damon–this is my blog, I make the rules!) relationship, and sex is a part of that, but it’s not a very explicit movie. I’m not saying you should watch this with your parents. Unless you’re VERY open with your parents, I’d avoid that, because it’s going to be awkward. But honestly, it’s not all that graphic. Much like another Steven Soderbergh movie, Magic Mike, the hype around it was a bit misdirected.
3. That being said, you DO see a lot of Matt Damon’s butt, always with different swimwear-related tanlines.
4. Did I mention that Rob Lowe was the best part of this movie? Oh, I did? Well, it bears repeating.
5. Don’t think it’s all Rob Lowe with tape pulling back his face or Scott Bakula wearing odd, tiny scarves. Behind the Candelabra is also pretty emotionally affecting. I loved the final, campy, still very sweet scene.
6. It’s also a genuinely funny movie. I laughed a lot.
If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it if you have an interest in destructive relationships, gay culture in the 70s/80s, the AIDS crisis, giant fur coats, Rob Lowe looking bizarre, or tanlines on Matt Damon’s butt.
Scott Bakula, take us out!
Previously in This Movie is the Best Movie: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, You’ve Got Mail, Pretty in Pink, Magic Mike, Post Grad, Elizabethtown, While You Were Sleeping, Valley Girl