Friday, 14 June 2013

Letterboxd: BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013) & RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (2012)

I didn't know much about Liberace before seeing this film, and after seeing it I have zero intention on catching up with the entertainer's body of work—although his piano skills are unquestionable. But giving you an appreciation for Liberace's act is not what this film wanted to achieve. It's a gay rom-com set primarily in the 1970s.

Michael Douglas is tremendous in the lead, Matt Damon's very good playing his lover Scott Thorson (this film's adapted from his autobiography), and Rob Lowe is hilarious as a plastic surgeon with one fixed expression. Steven Soderbergh directs with his usual skill and economy (using this as his movie swansong), but BEYOND THE CANDELABRA wasn't a story that held my interest for the duration. I think the biggest problem for me is that Liberace came across as pretty creepy too often (arm-twisting Scott into going under the knife to resemble himself when he was a younger man), and the film didn't communicate why Scott fell under Liberace's spell so easily. I think it was supposed to be because Liberace was more than just a rich and famous boyfriend; he was a brother and father figure for Scott, too. But the script kind of fudged that too much, so you just saw their romance as something a little too bizarre and doomed from the start.

And while it was given a cinema release in many territories around the world, BEHIND THE CANDELABRA does give off a straight-to-television vibe. It's a good drama with some memorable performances, but I came away none the wiser about exactly why Liberace was such an iconic force in entertainment in the '60s and '70s. It felt like Soderbergh loved the tragic/crazy romance at the core of Thorson's story, and the oddness that Liberace hid his homosexuality so well from people, but the director's feelings for 'Liberace the entertainer' were rather muted.

An entertaining true life drama, but not one I found much transcendent joy in.


Rise of the Guardians (2012)

A reasonable version of THE AVENGERS for the tiny demographic who are too young for THE AVENGERS, with some starry names unrecognisable beneath the animation. I enjoyed RISE OF THE GUARDIANS' edgy character designs: Jack Frost has a very Japanese anime look, the Easter Bunny's pretty mean-looking, Santa Claus feels inspired by Russian gangsters (complete with EASTERN PROMISES-style tattoos).

There are a few nice action scenes and visuals, but I've seen too many films doing pretty much the same thing with more humour and pizazz... animated or otherwise. Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS feels like an inspiration, too. And why call the villain Pitch, when he's The Boogieman?
Read more of my Letterboxd film reviews as they happen.
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