Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.
The Glittering: Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas may have taken home the Emmy for his performance as Liberace in this biopic, but the movie belongs to Matt Damon who gives an uninhibited performance as Liberace’s on-again, off-again lover Scott Thorson. As directed by Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra isn’t so much a biopic of the Las Vegas-loving, oh-so-gay pianist as a biography of the very weird relationship between Liberace and Thorson. As Liberace says in the film: “I want to be everything to you, Scott. I want to be your father, brother, lover, best friend.”
That, folks, is a recipe for disaster.
By now the details of Liberace’s final years have become common knowledge: his drug and spending habits, his death from AIDS, and the bizarre narcissism that drove him to own Throson as a kept man and undergo plastic surgery to look more like Liberace himself. Neither Throson nor Liberace comes off well in Behind the Candelabra, and yet somehow, Soderbergh, Douglas and Damon make us love the couple, their hedonistic lifestyle, and even their flaws. Though Thorson & Liberace’s relationship ends on a bitter note, the move doesn’t. Rather, it celebrates the real affection between two men who really did love one another, even when their relationship turned destructive. Featuring outstanding performances from its two lead, as well as Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe and the late Debbie Reynolds, Behind the Candelabra is a film as complicated–and joyous–as the men who inspired it.
Streams on HBO Max, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube & VUDU.