I voluntarily watched Liz & Dick a couple of months ago because I’m a fan of Paul Scheer’s podcast, How Did This Get Made? and I always try to watch the various terrible movies they’re going to discuss before listening to the episode. While Liz & Dick is among the better movies the podcast has examined, it is not good by any means.
The story follows the controversial relationship between Elizabeth Taylor (Lindsay Lohan) and Richard Burton (Grant Bowler). Both actors having been married before, meet on the set of 1963’s Cleopatra, and after a rocky first few encounters begin having an affair which lead to years of working together and two separate marriages.
Now, I don’t want to simply bash Lindsay Lohan here. Her personal life is a mess and it’s had an obvious effect on her acting career with a slew of awful films piled on top of each other. She clearly is taking whatever work she can get these days, but one gets the feeling that Liz & Dick was meant to be the beginning of her rise back to the spotlight, but unfortunately the film has other major flaws that prevented that from ever happening. Lohan’s performance is pretty good. We’ve seen her capable of realistic and charismatic performances before in things like Freaky Friday and even The Parent Trap, but this film falls flat in too many other ways.
First of all, the amount of time covered by the film is staggering. The filmmakers attempt to tell the story from the days when Burton and Taylor first meet (1963) all the way through Burton’s death (1984). It’s not that the entire film feels rushed. Much of it is very well paced, but it’s clear that they got to a point late in the film where they still had a lot of story to tell so they had to rush even more as the finale approached. It’s awkward to suddenly be jumping ahead years at a time; seeing Lohan don the iconic Elizabeth Taylor 80s look.
The best part of the film is Grant Bowler’s performance as Richard Burton. I’d never heard of Grant Bowler, and looking over his filmography, I’ve definitely seen him in other stuff but nothing stands out in my memory. Also, I know very little about Richard Burton – particularly his private life, but I enjoyed Bowler’s performance much more than anything else in the film.
I think the biggest problem with this is that stories about actors and their craft is consistently boring to me. When the most dramatic scenes in the film are centered on Burton’s inability to win an Oscar, and Taylor’s inability to hang a Monet painting in her hotel room, I find it difficult to care at all. This theme of actors in their environment is accented by having the characters periodically sitting in a black box theatre narrating the events of the film. They’re young and playful and deep as they discuss the events of their life as if they’re being interviewed. I’m not sure what these scenes are meant to represent. Perhaps the idea is that Taylor and Burton, while dead, are still together in some form – free to relive the ups and downs of their relationship for all eternity. I don’t know, but it’s not a very effective narrative device to me.
Finally, we come to the worst part of the film. A real blasphemy of cinema in my opinion. It seems inevitable that at some point Taylor and Burton are going to be cast in the amazing film adaptation of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. And once that thought occurred to me, I had only one request: that they not attempt to reenact scenes from the iconic and perfect original film. But my pleas and prayers fell on deaf ears as sure enough I had to endure Lindsay Lohan implying Burton was a homosexual and telling him he made her want to vomit with all the energy of Lohan’s new botoxed face. It made me want to vomit…
Available on DVD from Entertainment One on May 14.