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.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 58 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/17/2013
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.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
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.
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.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
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.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Special Features Rating: 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.
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.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
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