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'Liz and Dick' - A wig-flipping travesty
November 26, 2012 - April Diodato
I don't think that I need to tell you that Lifetime's “Liz and Dick” was a total disaster. We knew it would be. What I didn't expect, however, was that it would be a disaster of insurmountable proportions – any attempt to save “Liz and Dick” would be like using a child's beach pail to get rid of the rising water after the Titanic hit the iceberg. Absolutely everything was wrong with it – the casting, the laughable script, the editing, the cheap sets, the silly soundtrack, the wigs, those ridiculous scenes with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton narrating their lives while dressed like mimes – except for some of the wardrobe. I saw a lot of frocks that I would love to wear to a fancy cocktail party, if only I had one to go to.
There was not one second in the movie where I was convinced that Lindsay Lohan was Taylor, or Grant Bowler was Burton. It made it almost unwatchable. When the characters hadn't referred to each other by name in awhile, I started to think that everyone involved would have been better off if they would have tried to make the movie a more ambiguous story about the tumultuous relationship of two unnamed movie stars who met on a film set in the 1960s. It reminded me of Jenna Maroney's Janis Joplin biopic on “30 Rock” – due to legal reasons, her character had to be renamed “Jackie Jormp-Jomp,” and the songs featured rewritten lyrics to the same tune. Sadly, a lot of things in “Liz and Dick” made me think of “30 Rock” – like one scene where Rachel Dratch played Taylor. Check it out here– it's actually a more realistic portrayal of Taylor in 37 seconds than Lohan was able to muster in two hours.
Aside from the dark brown hair, the violet contacts and the wardrobe, Lohan couldn't pass for Taylor, even without my glasses on. (I am essentially blind). Even though the movie covers a two-decade-long time span, during which Taylor put on a considerable amount of weight, they did nothing to make Lohan look any older. I cackled aloud when she lamented turning 40 at her birthday party and showed absolutely no change in her appearance since her scenes at age 29 at the beginning. They also showed a scene from “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” acted out by Lohan and Bowler, with Lohan skinny as a rail, bare midriff on display. Taylor famously put on about 30 pounds to play the part. The only time they switched up her look to show the passage of time was a 1980s wig during the final moments of the film. She basically looks like Rachel Dratch playing Elizabeth Taylor. The best part was when "old Liz" collapsed onto the floor after her mother informed her of Richard's death. I nearly collapsed myself, I was laughing so hard. Quick, fetch the smelling salts!
It didn't help that Lohan also didn't sound anything like Taylor – in fact, I'm not sure that she could make up her mind about what kind of voice to use. Sometimes she sounded like plain old Lindsay Lohan. In other moments, she sounded the way you or I probably would if we were participating in a community theater production of “Liz and Dick,” and the director said, “Pretend to be a famous Hollywood actress with a flair for melodrama,” and we gave it our best shot. In other scenes, it seemed like Lohan was almost trying to affect an accent of indiscernible origins – a Continental accent perhaps? It was all very confusing.
As for the rest of it, the dialogue sounded as if it were written by a C-minus student in high school English class. Don't they have professional script writers for these kind of things? They unsuccessfully tried to cram everything from 1960 and 1984 into two hours (probably closer to 90 minutes without commercials), with very awkward transitions from one stage of the couple's lives to another. I guess that's why they decided to do those cringe-worthy scenes with a young Taylor and Burton, sitting in director's chairs, dressed in all black, in a black room, summing up what had just happened and what was about to happen. Voiceovers including some of Taylor or Burton's poignant, compelling letters or diary entries would have worked much better.
Could anyone have done these larger-than-life characters justice? Burton and Taylor were constantly photographed, their faces ingrained into public consciousness, their images captured in many classic films; it would have been a tall order for any actor or actress. Who should have been cast instead of Lohan? Megan Fox was rumored to have been considered for the role, but I doubt she would have fared much better. I thought that no actress would be able to do Marilyn Monroe justice due to similar challenges, but Michelle Williams managed to do it in “My Week With Marilyn.” If this were a real motion picture, with a big budget, a top screenwriter and director, I think I'd elect Williams to take on Taylor's role, too – she's proven that she could do the impossible.
The biggest shame about “Liz and Dick” is that they took such a dynamic love story and made it dull. This is a tale worth being told, without stunt casting and terrible production values. Taylor and Burton deserved better than this. As I watched the travesty unfold onscreen, all I could think was, “What would Elizabeth have thought?” She probably would have cursed and thrown her drink at the screen in utter despair. Not even a diamond could have consoled her. Well, maybe just a little.
"I’m bored. I’m SO bored,” said Ms. Elizabeth "Bossy Boots" Taylor (as Richard Burton calls her) in Lifetime's "Liz and Dick" -- and so was I. Please note the epic wig during Lindsay Lohan's scene as "Old Liz."