Box art for Behind the Candelabra

Behind the Candelabra


Michael Douglas and Matt Damon star in this HBO Films production that recounts show-biz icon Liberace's tempestuous five-year relationship with a young live-in lover. Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe and Debbie Reynolds co-star.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 15
1 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
4 out of 5
4 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
Positive role models
2 out of 5
4 out of 5
0 out of 5

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

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that Behind the Candelabra is a vivid tale about a May-December romance between a musical celebrity and his much-younger lover that contains a lot of hot-button content. We see men kissing, hot tubbing, and cuddling, as well as talking very graphically about oral and anal sex, and seemingly engaging in anal sex, with implied nudity, thrusting, and grunting. We also see the naked backsides of actors Matt Damon and Michael Douglas, and numerous men shirtless. Actors drink, smoke cigarettes, and use amphetamines, amyl nitrate, and cocaine, though the drug use is not glamorized and the realities of drug addiction are shown starkly. There are slightly gory surgical montages, and conversations where characters worry about aging and gaining weight and resolve to fight the march of time with cosmetic surgery. Viewers will hear many four-letter words ("f--k"), and slurs against gay men: "You old queen!" Nonetheless, Behind the Candelabra is a moving, relatable love story with a lot to say about human frailty and the many ways people hurt the ones they love.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about Liberace. Have you ever seen the real Liberace? Watch some clips of him on YouTube. How well did Douglas capture the singer?
  • Is the audience supposed to approve of Thorson and Liberace's romance? Did your opinion of the relationship change while watching the movie?
  • Read up on the struggles director Steven Soderbergh had getting Behind the Candelabra made. Why do you think studios balked at making the movie?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: It's both a romp and uncomfortably real.

- Dave Calhoun, Time Out, Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fresh: This is one of the strangest and strongest TV movies in memory.

- David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer, Monday, May 27, 2013

Fresh: There's never a sense Douglas or director Steven Soderbergh is after a caricature, but there's still the sense that we sometimes get one.

- David Hinckley, New York Daily News, Friday, May 24, 2013

Audience Reviews

4 stars

Whenever I think of Liberace I always remember that scene from the original Austin Powers film where while looking over the history books to catch up on the 30 or so years he had missed while in cryofreeze he suddenly declares "I can't believe Liberace was gay". Liberace's talent was matched only by is exuberance. This could have have been the most awful biopic of all time had it been handled by the wrong director but Soderbergh, who I really find hit and miss, got every single thing right. It's probably my favourite biopic of all time now. It is both funny and tender but doesn't pull punches when it has to. Matt Damon has never been better in my opinion and Michael Douglas was unrecognisable and also brilliant. The supporting cast is a mixed bag of fantastic too with Scott Bakula, Debbie Reynolds, Dan Aykroyd and Rob Lowe in a not to be missed performance.

- SirPant, Monday, July 1, 2013

4 stars

Soderbergh is one of the worst directors to tackle a love story, but the countless oddities, the fabulous glitz, and the stunning performances are hypnotic.

- fb100001581602053, Tuesday, May 28, 2013

3 stars

I usually skip the made for tv movies. But when a movie stars Matt Damon and Michael Douglas and it's on HBO, it's worth a watch. "Behind the Candelabra" is the story of Liberace(Douglas) and his relationship with the much younger Scott(Damon). It's about how the Liberace imposes his lavish lifestyle onto Scott. From showering him with money and jewelery, to forcing him into plastic surgery. Then, it plays out how it all crashed down and Scott's attempt to get palimony before Liberace's death in the 80s. Douglas is absolutely amazing, and this is probably the best performance he has ever done. Never once do you go "Man, Douglas does a great Liberace." Instead you really believe you are watching Liberace. Damon does good, but he is overshadowed by Douglas. Rob Lowe plays a plastic surgeon who works on them both and has had too much done himself. Lowe is awesome and should be considered for Supporting nominations when it comes to awards. This is probably the gayest movie I've ever seen, and I've watched and liked "Brokeback Mountain". So if homosexual's make you uncomfortable, or if your homophobic, then you should pass on this. Otherwise, you should check it out for a fascinating look at one of the most polarizing figures in music history.

- fb100000145236770, Monday, May 27, 2013