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NY1 Movie Review: "Behind The Candelabra"

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"Behind the Candelabra", a new film about the five-year love affair between Liberace and his young lover, stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, was directed by Steven Soderbergh and will premiere on HBO. NY1's Neil Rosen filed the following report.

A new, highly anticipated film, made for HBO, tells the story of piano player extraordinaire and showman Liberace and his young lover. It's called "Behind The Candelabra".

Back in the the late 1970s, Liberace, played brilliantly here by Michael Douglas, was performing to packed showrooms in Las Vegas, and his fans, primarily elder women from middle America, ate it up. But as one of the characters in this film says, they had no idea that he was gay.

When young Scot Thorson, played by Matt Damon, meets Liberace backstage one night, it's the beginning of a relationship that lasts for five years.

Liberace is smitten and falls in love. He quickly makes Scott his employee, puts him on stage as part of show, and forbids him to engage in any outside activities without his permission. In a fascinating part of the film, he makes Scott get plastic surgery to resculpt his face in his own image. In essence, Liberace wants to make love to a younger version of himself.

When Scott is ultimately abandoned by Liberace for a younger, newer model, he decides to sue him publicly, outing him in the media.

Expertly directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film is one part dark comedy, one part kitsch, one part drama and one part love story.

Douglas completely inhabits Liberace. He has the on-stage voice and mannerisms down pat, and off stage, he's vulnerable, sympathetic and mesmerizing to watch. Damon is equally incredible playing a naive young man who grew up in a foster home and is basically looking for love and acceptance. Both performances are revelations. Rob Lowe is also terrific as the creepy plastic surgeon.

The movie drags a bit, but more often than not, this biopic is riveting.

Look for it on HBO, where it premieres this Sunday.

Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: Three apples

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