2013 in Film was about excess. Excess in riches, prosperity, greed and power. This sort of theme ran throughout films that year. “Pain and Gain”, “Spring Breakers”, “The Bling Ring”, “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” all presented their own variations on the subject. And now that I’ve finally seen “Behind the Candelabra”, I would like to add it to that list. As Liberace says in his final lines of the film, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”
The plot revolves around the famed Liberace (Micheal Douglas) and his 6 year rollercoaster relationship with Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), who was only 18 when they met.
Michael Douglas is beyond superb here. Even in situations that most actors would make outrageous, Douglas retains a terrific humanity and honesty throughout. Matt Damon does well in this film as well, keeping the same level of commitment and warmth that Douglas has. Can we talk about how big an achievement – both in acting and makeup – it was that I bought Matt Damon playing an 18 year old? Smaller but memorable roles are filled by a comically creepy Rob Lowe, a cold Cheyenne Jackson, a mousy Dan Ackroyd and a fatherly Scott Bakula.
It’s saddening that Soderbergh has been set on calling it quits soon. He seems to have hit a certain groove with his past few films “Haywire”, “Contagion”, “Magic Mike” and “Side Effects” showing a superb renewal of growth, energy and risk in his work. I know he’s still got the HBO mini-series “The Knick” coming hopefully sometime this year, making “Behind the Candelabra” not his swan song as many had presumed, including himself.
Although as much as I lament the end of his career, there is something to be said about going out on a high note. Perhaps Soderbergh doesn’t view the final lines “Too much of a good thing is wonderful” with the same love and admiration that Damon’s Thorson does. Perhaps Soderbergh sees a delightful delusion in such a statement, – what is behind the shiny mantelpiece – that too much of a good thing is only wonderful in the moment, and not afterwards.