"Behind The Candelabra" may very well become one of the best reviewed movies of the year. Too bad it's not an actual movie movie: Steven Soderbergh's final film -- which focuses on the relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his young lover, Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) -- debuted to raves from attendees at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, just a few days before "Behind the Candelabra" airs on HBO.
"Nobody would make it," Soderbergh told The New York Post earlier this year. "We went to everybody in town. They all said it was too gay. And this is after 'Brokeback Mountain,' by the way, which is not as funny as this movie. I was stunned. It made no sense to any of us."
Indeed. What's more perplexing is that Soderbergh's last hurrah could have been an Oscar film. That was the thinking, at least, when it was first announced. "A lot of people think I'm nuts making a movie about Liberace. I don't! I've got a great script, it's a great story, and they're great characters," producer Jerry Weintraub told Movieline back in 2011. "That's what I make movies about. It's going to win an Academy Award [for Michael Douglas]."
"It's an uncanny impersonation and, quite astonishingly, the first nonfictional character the actor has portrayed onscreen," Variety critic Peter Debruge wrote of Douglas' work after the Cannes debut. "But this is no mere caricature: Douglas brings real dimension to the role, exploring the difference between the pianist’s on- and offstage personas, grappling with the effects of age on an entertainer and trying to reconcile Liberace’s pattern of attraction to young men with what the pic paints as genuinely paternal feelings."
Oscar blogger Sasha Stone wrote that "Behind the Candelabra" is Soderbergh's "best film in years," and that "were this movie released in theaters there would be Oscar nominations all around. Douglas might have even won his second."
For more about "Behind the Candelabra," check out Indiewire's CriticWire blog. Soderbergh's film airs on HBO on May 26 at 9 p.m. EST.