It is not so much about Lifetime’s biopic of Elizabeth Taylor as it is Lifetime’s biopic of Elizabeth Taylor starring Lindsay Lohan! And yeah, it was awful. But was it hilariously awful? Mind numbing awful? Run-of-the-mill awful? Find out now!
Directed by: Lloyd Kramer Produced by: Kyle A. Clark, Robert G. Endara II, & Lina Wong Written by: Christopher Monger Running time: 89 minutes Original airing: November 25, 2012 (Lifetime Original)
Elizabeth Taylor: Lindsay Lohan Richard Burton: Grant Bowler Sara Taylor: Theresa Russell Ifa Jenkins: David Hunt Bernard: Bruce Nozick
Ever since the announcement was made for Lindsay Lohan to portray Hollywood legend and exotic silly hat wearer Elizabeth Taylor in an elaborate Lifetime Original, you could already guess how the lead-up and outcome would turn out. The Internet, bashful as they are, would be careless NOT to pluck the low-hanging fruit that is Lindsay Lohan in a Lifetime movie, for without that, there is no major publicity, no reviews from major news outlets, no one caring about a Lifetime movie at all. It was a strategic plan to get people talking about the most troubled, high profiled actress in Hollywood – and by extension the network, home to some of the most ridiculous and guilty-pleausrest movies on planet Earth – once again. It worked.
Without Lindsay, this 411 review does not exist. Without her, the amount of hype does not get three-fourths of what it did. Thus I – and the 3.5 million other people who tuned in (fourth most-watched original movie premiere on the network for 2012, yet still somewhat mediocre considering the buildup) – wouldn’t have bothered tuning in to see what the whole fuss was about. Especially when up against other wonderful programming such as Sunday Night Football, Walking Dead, and Home Alone 5: The Holiday Heist (Yes, it’s on my Watch list, but that’s another story). Stuff like that. Yet here we are, about to embark on Lifetime’s most anticipated movie of the year, Liz & Dick, a made-for-TV biopic LIKE NO OTHER.
On a separate note, I heard Comedy Central pulled an epic power move and aired Mean Girls around the same time Liz & Dick was scheduled to air. I cannot confirm it but if true, genius trolling right there, Comedy Central.
Liz & Dick centers on the haughty love affair between shameless couple Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. If I was to jettison the proper review format and narrow it down to the essentials, this is how the movie basically plays out – Liz and Richard begin their romance on the set of Cleopatra, which is soon followed by an endless parade of fighting, drinking, and fornicating, mostly in expensive hotels and houseboats. That’s it. At times not necessarily in that order, but nevertheless fills up the full two hours. Granted it was the highlight in the initial trailer but rarely could you find a scene where the two were not doing at least one of the three. They fight, they drink, they fight and bang and drink, fight drink bang, bang drink fight, the Lizzie and Dickie Shoooooow! (This joke has been stolen approximately one thousand times, yet it still doesn’t it make any less funny.)
Actually I lied. There are a couple of times during the movie when Lindsay nonchalantly flings an object – whether a vase or a bottle of vodka – towards the wall. To demonstrate her angry face, you see. It was quite the adorable hissy fit. Then she drinks and smokes, Burton calls her character “Ms. Pudgy-Digits,” she gets in a huff, which somehow ends up with the two canoodling, and awwwwww there they go again.
The chronicle of the love bird’s enigmatic affair runs purely on sensual gusto, or more accurately, hate-passion. The first half of the story is how Taylor and Burton want to be the white to their rice despite already being fried to another grain (the non-ridiculous synopsis version: they want to elope together, other marriages be damned). While the tabloids view the scandal as a hot mess, the twosome passes it off as a distressing inconvenience, as if the holy sanctification of matrimony was the blame for their blossoming love. Now and again it’s a short lived love burst, as the backtalk rises from its habitually slumber and makes those within hearing distance quite uncomfortable. After a lightning round of snide remarks or whatever, they go back to the smooches and beat on to the sound of their own charming relationship. Then onto the next scene for more of the same, as the structure of the film is to hop from one big moment in the couple’s history after another, illustrating the abridged version of a rowdy love affair between two attention hungry celebrities who love and hate each other during various points of the day and ones you’ll most likely end up hating by the time the credits roll.
But the point of emphasis critics are going to make is the poor performance of one Lindsay Lohan. Oof, let me just say, she was pretty bad. I’m not entirely sure if what I saw was the complete acting makeup of the poor girl or if she just didn’t have anything to work with. Often times we want to huck dumpster fire at Lohan for the poor choices she made in life, but as once demonstrated in Mean Girls, she is capable of being a bona fide Hollywood actress (whenever she can make it to the set). None of that is validated here. When not communicating in sighs (40% of the movie right there!), she remained flat and dismal and inadvertently hilarious during dramatic moments. She made for an unconvincing Elizabeth Taylor, although to be fair the same criticisms would have befallen on any other actress. Plus – not to be Captain Save-a-Lohan here – this is a Lifetime Original movie! I can name all the greatest Lifetime movies on one fist. All of them are super cheap and super cheesy to begin with. I suppose it’s not the studio’s intention to make them that way, but it’s not like they’re made to be anything else, and Liz & Dick fared no better or worse than the rest of the made-for-TV movie library. No, this isn’t the Oscar-nominated comeback trail Lindsay hoped for, but it’s neither the worst thing ever. As a matter of fact, you could even say she brings out the most enjoyable aspects of the entire movie. Sure, it’s in the name of unintentional comedy, but still, positivity!
Grant Bowler was slightly better as Richard Burton. Played a ragging Dick quite well. However he too fell under the mockery of the script. As if the movie didn’t want Lohan to share the spotlight of infamy, the movie gave Burton a mouthful of ridiculous dialogue and asked him to work it under the pretense of passion. What we got were thespianesque pick-up lines such as, “I said to her, ‘Has anyone ever told you you’re a very pretty girl?’ Then I paused, and she walked away, before I could add, ‘Well they would be a fool! You are not a pretty girl though you once were. You are now a beautiful woman, with the depths of the ocean in your violet eyes and the promise of a ripe plum in your soft firm lips and your spilling white-hot bosom.’” Burton will go on to refer Taylor as his “ocean” on more than one occasion. All pretty laughable, but it fits well within the droll nature of the movie.
I should also mention that the story is narrated by Lohan and Bowler as younger versions of their characters. Reality TV-style interview clips are intermixed throughout the movie, helping explain the actions of their older selves directly to the camera. How’s that for an afterlife – trapped in darkness with nothing but chairs, a camera, and a somber Lindsay Lohan crying about how it all went wrong in the last couple of years.
So only one question remains: how awful did Liz & Dick turn out? Oh, it was awful, holy cow was it ever, but was it entertainingly watchable? In this reviewer’s opinion, YES. Everything you could hope for in a Lifetime train wreck starring Lindsay Lohan came to fruition. Liz & Dick is a feeling of schadenfreude, smothered with campiness and lots of shattering glass. Even if nothing more than redeeming qualities, at least it has that.
The 411: This was not about Lifetime’s depiction of Elizabeth Taylor. Well it was, but this was more about Lohan the Porsche Crash Test Dummy’s whimsical depiction of Elizabeth Taylor, and the awful awfulness that was surely going to come with it. And it did. Overly-acted? You bet! Hammy? Loads of it. Remember that the final score is arbitrary – one based on a level regarding its atrocious existence and unintentional lulz. Fans of bad movies wanting something for bad movie night should check out the encore. It’s not the worst of all Lifetime movies, but still serious fun. As for the rest, consider yourselves clean.