'Liz And Dick': Sadly, As Immature As Its Leading Lady
Liz and Dick, the made-for-TV Lifetime movie about the infamous Hollywood couple, has been receiving a lot of press. It's been suggested all over the media that Lindsay Lohan, assuming the role of Elizabeth Taylor, could be making a comeback with her work on the project. Yet, the project itself is as immature, insecure and erratic as it portrayed the late Liz and Dick, and Lohan never quite fills the double eyelashes of the leading lady.
The affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (Grant Bowler) begins during the filming of Cleopatra. Burton crudely flirts with Taylor across a crowded dining room in stage whispers after a day of filming. She leaves, offended. The following day they are set to film a love scene — both are inexplicably unprepared and make a show of being unable to conjure up the acting chops to make the scene believable. They manage just fine. So much so that after the scene they run like high-school kids to Taylor's Pepto-Bismol pink trailer to finish where they left off. The affair continues until Burton attempts to break off the romance after he finds out that his wife has just attempted suicide. “I can't live without you," wails Taylor as she scurries off to her bedroom where a bottle of pills and vodka sit neatly on her bedside table. She then chases the pills with the vodka, and waits for Burton to rescue her. This, like many of the dramatic scenes in Liz and Dick, has an awkward pacing that makes her desperation more farcical than anything else. The movie had yet to (and never does) make a case for why or how they’ve fallen so deeply for one another.
At times Liz and Dick seemed to thrive on its comedy – meta-comedy. “I’m bored, I’m so bored,” laments Lindsay as Liz while lounging in a beautiful backyard during a break from acting. Was this Liz Taylor speaking or was this Lohan, was this my inner monologue? Regardless, it amused. The film also enjoyed its camp violence – apparently Taylor never met a bottle she didn’t want to throw. And, if that really was the case, Lohan could have shown at least a little more chutzpah when launching them into walls.
Lohan, unfortunately, had more problems taking on the role of Taylor than replicating convincing bottle launching theatrics. Throughout the movie, she appears to simply be playing dress-up and never fully inhabits her part. While not entirely her fault, her performance is more caricature than biography. Yes, she’s got the thick eyelashes, the beauty mark, the soft wave in her hair, but Lohan fails to master Taylor’s signature voice. Her accent, sometimes recalling her gravelly native Long Island, and sometimes sounding similar to the one she donned at 12 to play British twin Annie James in the Parent Trap, never quite hits the mark. Grant Bowler as Burton does a fair job playing the respected actor, with a far more convincing and capable performance than Lohan even though he got a tougher deal with his hair and make-up.
The movie suffers for many reasons, not least of which is it’s attempt to cram in as much stuff as possible into under two hours. It’s on the set of Cleopatra, The V.I.P’s, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It name-drops actors and actress and even the other scandalous couple of the times — Wallace and Edward. It goes from Rome to New York to Switzerland to Portofino to Sardinia. (The European backdrops look like a children’s coloring book, falsely indicating that cinematography hasn’t advanced much since Cleopatra’s shots of “Egypt.”) It has this recurring interview-like scene with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton both appearing in their prime breaking the fourth wall and talking about their relationship – posthumously. It ends with the death of Burton in 1984. When Taylor is delivered the news, Lohan falls like a ton of bricks to the ground. (Another potentially humanizing moment that gets lost in this movie.) After the final scene of Taylor laying flowers on Burton’s grave — after the 120 minutes of toxic attraction, alcohol abuse, and emotional warfare the viewer is informed via text at the bottom of the screen “Elizabeth Taylor kept all of Richard Burton’s letters her whole life.” Awe?