Parents' Guide to

Behind the Candelabra

By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Vivid romance between over-the-top men has drugs and sex.

Movie NR 2013 120 minutes
Behind the Candelabra Poster Image

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The trappings of Thorson and Liberace's romance are so eye-poppingly over the top that most viewers will turn on Behind the Candelabra for just this reason. Gilded cherubs? Rhinestoned cars? Gleaming silver chauffeur's uniforms, a coat with a 16-foot ermine train, Liberace and Thorson swanning around a sleazy adult bookstore in matching fur coats. This is fun stuff to watch, whether or not you're slightly skeeved out by the notion of a rich older dude who rents a foxy younger one. Or possibly, viewers might be tuning in to see if two famous actors are really, actually going to make out onscreen (and they do. A lot. And more).

But there's more at work here than just a "look at the freaks!" mentality. Liberace, stunningly realized by Michael Douglas, is by turns predatory and fatherly, supportive yet scary, warm and caring to his lover yet eager to call in a plastic surgeon (a hilariously squinty-eyed and coifed Rob Lowe) to transform said lover's face into a younger version of his own. At times, the romance between Thorson and Liberace is almost painfully sweet. What viewer would have expected that? One starts the movie ready to laugh at Liberace, a famously closeted gay fellow who chased younger men and lived the campiest lifestyle imaginable. But by Behind the Candelabra's end, not only do you like the guy and Thorson too, you pity the doomed romance and the real people in it. Behind the Candelabra is a gorgeous, moving document of two people who found each other and then lost what they had.

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