Thursday, November 29, 2012

liz and dick and lindsay and whatshisname

Like most television biopics, Liz and Dick ends up being a blow-by-blow, scene-by-scene play-acting of the high and low moments from a celebrity's life. In the case of this film, which was supposed to chronicle the great romance between actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, there were two larger-than-life celebrities to portray. Liz and Dick were the original paparazzi darlings, and were THE celebrities of their era. Once they were together they were rarely out of the limelight. They both shunned and courted the press, reveling in their romantic, financial, and other excesses.

They were hot stuff and their affair was world news - check out her Cleopatra eyeliner
Taylor and Burton at their (first) wedding
The recently published book Furious Love took readers through their tumultuous affair and marriages. Liz and Dick most likely used the book as a source, but tended to play down or leave out some well-known details that would have played more dramatically into the saga of the "Battling Burtons" — such as the prodigious amount of alcohol that both parties consumed, and Burton's never-ending philandering. The Burtons were larger-than-life, but the movie is curiously quiet in tone, considering how many epic battles and parties the couple was known for.

The Lifetime movie did only OK in the ratings and even worse in reviews. Liz and Dick wasn't very good, but it wasn't horrible. It's about on par with The Girl, the recent HBO biopic which purported to be the true story behind the making of The Birds, but was mainly an opportunity for actress Tippi Hedren to finally share the sordid details of her unfortunate relationship with director Alfred Hitchcock. The main reason to watch Liz and Dick was not to find out about the life of the 60's most glamorous couple, but to see how tabloid darling Lindsay Lohan (who never manages to stay off the front page) would do as La Liz.

Lohan looked a bit too skinny to portray the fabulously curvy and diminutive Taylor. The costumes, make-up, and wigs were so meticulously done — why didn't the stylists add a little discreet padding in the hips and derriere to perfect Lohan-as-Taylor's look? She did just fine in the emotional scenes, but where her portrayal fell flat, and which undermined the whole viewing experience was in the voice. Elizabeth Taylor had almost a touch of hysteria to her voice. It was higher-pitched and more forceful than Lohan's. Lohan or her director, Lloyd Kramer, needed to take things up a notch. The quiet delivery of most lines just didn't cut it. Grant Bowler (Lost, True Blood), who played Burton, did a very good job imitating Burton's voice, which helped make up for his character not having much to do except pose with Lohan or spout pseudo-Shakespeare.

Lohan and Bowler play-act the Burton's wedding day
Actresses knew how to pose in the '60s
Liz and Dick shouldn't be a blot on Lohan's career as some unkind reviewers have been suggesting, but viewers who want to get a real taste of the Burtons and their undeniable chemistry would do better to watch Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Taming of the Shrew, or the movie that started it all, Cleopatra.
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