Let’s face it. Liberace was a nasty, shallow, self-absorbed queen.

I was prepared to dislike Behind the Candelabra which premiered on HBO last night. In that regard it did not disappoint. Perhaps director, Steven Soderbergh, was overly concerned about offending the gay community. Michael Douglas did an admirable impersonation. However Matt Damon, at 42, was a terrible choice to play Scott Thorson who first met Liberace as a 17-year-old and was his lover for five years.

The script depicts the man and boy as intellectual equals. Liberace was a miserable piece of work who manipulated and dominated an uneducated 17-year-old kid. Damon, hampered by an awkward script and a considerable age difference, was unable to convey Thorson’s vulnerability. Without that, we are left with a somewhat sterilized Liberace.

At the end, we are informed that Thorson lives in Reno. No mention of the fact that he has been in and out of prison and that he is currently incarcerated at the Washoe county jail in Reno.

Then there is the utter lack of camp. Liberace without camp? Come on. The one bit of camp at the end, where Thorson envisions Liberace on stage in ermine being lifted off into heaven, is funny but poorly executed.

Behind the Candelabra is not a complete waste of two hours. However, it could have been so much better.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.