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    Behind the Candelabra Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray HBO TV Reviews

    Sep 14 2013 01:33 PM | Cameron Yee in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Though its title seems to promise insight, be prepared for just light entertainment in director Steven Soderbergh’s Liberace biopic. The Blu-ray presentation is a faithful rendering of the director / cinematographer’s work, though the release is effectively barebones given the limited number of extras.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: HBO
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Other
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    • Rating: TV-MA
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 58 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 09/17/2013
    • MSRP: $24.99

    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    On his first visit to Las Vegas, part-time animal trainer Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) meets the legendary entertainer Liberace (Michael Douglas). Introduced through a mutual friend, the two instantly hit it off, though it’s clear Liberace has other interests regarding the attractive and significantly younger man.

    Thorson’s feelings are more ambiguous; while he certainly gets along with Liberace, he seems uneasy about having a sexual relationship with him. Nevertheless, he agrees to become the performer’s personal assistant, though that essentially means he’s also his lover. Though Thorson is warned he’s going to be another of Liberace’s many flings, it seems like the musician feels differently this time, even proposing to adopt Thorson so they can be legal family. In a bizarre move, he also arranges for him to undergo plastic surgery so the two can look more alike. Needless to say, there’s little about the relationship that can be considered typical, except that, like any union, its success will depend on each man’s ability to control his personal demons.

    Without question, the primary draw to Director Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra is the casting of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in the lead roles. Though not stunt casting in the strictest sense, imagine the parts being filled by unknowns and consider how interested audiences would be then.

    Fortunately, the maneuver proves more than just a foot in the door as the two men fully commit to the project, which was based on Thorson’s tell-all book, largely disappearing into their sometimes outlandish performances. This is especially true for Douglas, who manages to capture both the spirit and mannerisms of the late, flamboyant pianist. Damon seems a little out of his element at times, but it suits the part he’s playing too, a once-aspiring veterinarian who never imagined becoming, of all things, Liberace’s boyfriend.

    As far as biopics go, the film doesn’t offer much insight into the main characters, seeming content to just relay a series of events. Fortunately it comes along with a light touch and bits of farcical humor, making the film at least entertaining.

    Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

    Framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer offers a faithful presentation of Soderbergh’s naturalistic and available light cinematography. Because of the sometimes dim environments in the Vegas nightclubs and moody hotel interiors, images are not always tack sharp, but in daylit scenes or under stage lights, there’s a pleasing clarity to both wide shots and close ups. Black level and contrast also appear uncompromised, only looking somewhat muddled in a particularly underlit scene. Color is often very warm, most noticeable with the practically glowing skin tones through much of the film, though it’s ultimately a fitting look for the production.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5

    Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, clear and intelligible, the trademark texture in Douglas’s vocals coming through particularly well. Surround effects are pretty minimal, showing up here and there to lend some environmental color, but otherwise it’s an affair dominated by the center and front speakers. LFE is pretty much non-existent, though there’s appropriate depth and fullness throughout.

    Special Features: 1.5/5

    • Making of (14:03, HD): Electronic press kit feature covers development, casting, production design and wardrobe with members of the cast and crew.
    • Digital Copy: Options for Mac, Windows, and mobile platforms. Offer expires 9/30/2015.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    HBO Home Entertainment delivers a faithful high definition presentation for Steven Soderbergh’s entertaining, if not particularly insightful, Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. The release offers few extras, however, making it a title best viewed as a rental first.

    Reviewed by: Cameron Yee
    Support HTF when you buy this title:


    Hmmm...the Amazon link is for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan.  Perhaps the title of the movie should have been: Greystoke: The Legend of Liberace?  :)

    Stranger things have been produced. :)


    In any case, the link has been fixed.

    Thanks, Cameron.


    Soderbergh, like Spielberg, has a "no commentary" rule nowadays, so that is understandable.  I was pretty much expecting this to be a "movie-only" Blu-ray.  Still a must purchase for me, as I really enjoyed it.  Rob steals the scenes he is in and it cracks me up.

    Yes, I was surprised that Rob didn't receive an Emmy nomination for his work.


    I actually preferred Damon's performance to Douglas' (though I can't imagine anything that will prevent Douglas from winning the Emmy later this month). I kept seeing Michael Douglas behind the mannerisms. Frankly, I thought Victor Garber did the best Liberace impersonation in the TV-movie he did about twenty years ago. It wasn't able to be as sexually explicit as this film was obviously since it was a made for network television movie, but it somehow seemed richer and more interesting to me than this. That might be my memory playing tricks, however. It was a LONG time ago.

    I thought Debbie Reynolds was wonderful in this.  Totally unexpected to see her essay such a character part.  Overall, an enjoyable film, but not especially memorable.

    Soderbergh, like Spielberg, has a "no commentary" rule nowadays, so that is understandable. 


    I didn't know that, and that's a shame - Soderbergh's commentaries on movies like Traffic, Ocean's Eleven, The Limey, Out Of Sight, etc., etc., are some of my very favorite commentary tracks ever.