Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Liz & Dick

Quick! Open the liquor cabinet! The movie is about to start!
I would like to think that this is how they would react. After they changed the channel.

Now, I know it is impossible for Liz Taylor to be incarnated by anyone other than Liz Taylor -- they truly broke the damn mold on her. But casting Lindsay Lohan? Hollywood's ultimate star played by a washed-up wannabe? One of the great beauties of all time portrayed by a once-pretty 26-year-old who's blown enough rails and had enough truly unfortunate plastic surgery to look like a 43-year-old streetwalker? A woman renowned for high-profile relationships with some of the most famous men of her time acted by someone who's only notable score was banging some DJ whose stepdad was in Foreigner. (And that would not have provoked any interest at all if said DJ hadn't been a lady.) A multiple-Oscar winner who starred in a number of film classics impersonated by someone who last decent film was over a decade ago... Well, okay Zee and Co. was pretty dreadful, but not nearly as bad as I Know Who Killed Me. And, yes, while Machete was a fucking masterpiece, I would not count Lohan's brief contribution as crucial. Welcome and amusing, yes, but not essential.

Obviously, Lifetime did not intend Liz & Dick to be a quality product. No one who tuned into this movie expected it to be good. Which is not a bad thing: My friend Laura recently stated that she wished Lifetime was "a real women's movie channel with lots of schlocky biographies. Mommie Dearest twenty-four-seven." One would hope that Liz & Dick would be a step in this oh-so right directions. But, alas, no. It's a poor-to-middling biopic with some idiotic stunt casting.
I'd have no idea who this was supposed to be if they didn't keep telling me.

The movie is idly framed with the idea of Burton's love letters to Taylor -- they open with one, mention it at some point again later, whatever. they also repeatedly come back to what I suppose is supposed to be their 1972 interview with David Frost (you know, there one was Liz was so hammered on Jack Daniels that she always regretted doing it), but comes off more like some kind of faux Inside the Actor's Studio crap. What follows is an endless procession of brief scenes of the life of someone who they claim is Elizabeth Taylor. And i do mean brief: There is not a scene longer than 90 seconds. I don't know if that's because the writer had severe ADHD or maybe that's the longest Lindsay could go without her eyes rolling back into her head.

Listen, before we go any further with this, let me share the most memorable thing about viewing Liz & Dick, which was the perfecting of my newest cocktail invention...

The Pushkin
2 parts Stoli salted caramel vodka
1 part caramel-flavored Bailey's
1 part whole milk.

Shake and serve over ice. Like a White Russian, but a bit sweeter and with a more cafe au lait color. I'm not sure exactly what kind of drinking game to play during this movie. Rick suggested that every time someone shoehorns backstory into dialogue: "I made twenty-nine pictures in the last fifteen years." Drink! "This is your fourth marriage!" Drink!... Fuck! Let's make it easy: Every time they drink, we drink.
Honestly, i'm not sure this movie is even worth wasting your liquor. (And you know Lindsay can feel that snap from here, even passed out!) But, as Ginger pointed out, "The good thing about this being on television with commercials is that there's time to freshen your drink. Early. And often."

The guy who plays Burton at least does a competent Richard Burton voice, but his abs are definitely not the abs of a middle-aged 1960s alcoholic. At one point he wears a mink coat that inspires one to put their hand in the air and do the "'Big Pimpin' Whistle," but ends up in Jimmy Buffet shirts. Taylor's overprotective mother is played by Theresa Russell -- Remember Black Widow!? Remember Ken Russell's Whore!? Now she's here, playing down her still-fabulousness in the service of Lindsay Lohan. And Lohan -- Jesus, she's not even trying. I could do a better Liz Taylor than that. Watch her movies/clips with a bit of observance and you quickly notice a distinct timbre to her voice and a certain blowsy-yet regal body language.

Divine as Francine Fishpaw was a better late Taylor than this. Hell, at least we would have enjoyed that. I'm sure La Liz would too.

We're also lacking for historical accuracy or even truthfulness to the spirit of the character. The Liz of Liz & Dick is curiously prissy: The woman who would beam benignly as Mike Todd yanked down her top for a feel of the Imperial Bosoms in full view of two dozen dinner guests is here a princess who flounces away scandalized at the mere mention of her cleavage. Well, at least the double chin is accurate.

See, this is what we're going for! Clock that. That is over-the-top goddess-on-earth.

And at least for the 90's Liz Taylor TV miniseries they got an actually beautiful woman and an actual costume designer. Instead of the collaboration between David's Bridal and Bed, Bath & Beyond used by Lifetime for Liz & Dick.
See what I mean? They didn't even spring for Party City. That is another beef i have with this movie:  It's cheap. The costumes are off-the-rack, the sets are basically the same hotel suite shot from different angles, a yacht they rented for a weekend and various corners of the set with some work lights in them. And then....

It's the Elizabeth Taylor Story: Jewelry by Claire's Boutique!

The romance is about as shoddy. If you want to do the full tabloid diva Taylor, you gotta start sooner. Begin with the Mike Todd years, which gave her the taste for over-the-top luxury. Or the "Liz Steals Eddie from Debbie" superscandal of the post-Todd years. Actually the only time Lohan seems to spring vaguely alert is when she's being nasty to Sybil Burton (the hip nightclub owner who, after Burton, stole Roddy McDowall's boyfriend and then married a rock n' roller 12 years her junior, here as a pearl-clutching priss). Maybe a Liz vs. Debbie Mean Girls would have worked out better. Actually, you know what's a lot better, now that i'm thinking of it : The Jayne Mansfield Story TV movie starring Loni Andersen as Jayne and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mickey Hargitay. Now that was a brilliant piece of affectionate schlock!

So, back to the tedious tale of Liz & Dick. When the two finally get together, he recites poetry to her as they lie in a candle-surrounded soaking tub in a bed and breakfast in the Tuscan countryside... yep, Richard Burton's seduction of Elizabeth Taylor looks just like Antonio Sabato Jr. putting the moves on Jennie Garth. Dick tries to leave Liz, but then she runs off to her suite and starts speed-chasing pills with vodka. See! This part's convincing. Now Lohan's really acting... oh, wait.

They reunite and begin drinking a lot and making ridiculous movies like The V.I.P.'s, driving aghast directors to utter lines like :
"It's 8 a.m. and they're already drinking!"
"For God's sake, let's go for a take while they can still walk."

I know, that sounds pretty awesomely campy, but that's about as good as it gets. Here. I'll give you the two other amusing lines and save you the trouble of watching or, at least, paying attention:

"I need a ring. A big ring." 

"I'm not saying that it's colon cancer, but it's serious enough that I have to run more tests."

Liz & Dick overall is pretty lousy. Elizabeth Taylor herself made a string of uber-campy B-movies back in the late sixties/early seventies, but her presence always lit them up, whereas Lohan is a lead weight on Liz & Dick. Just because the paparazzi went after you and after her does not make you her. Having something in common does not mean you play yourself. The moment where the lights flashed in your face like they did in hers --that was two lines crossing. It was the path you could follow down the line from you to her. Jump the line. That's the magic of acting: You can be someone else. Or at least fucking try.

Blah blah blah, Liz & Dick, they drink, they fight, they divorce, they remarry, they divorce. She wants drinks and jewelry, he bitches and moans and cries about not winning an Oscar (the accepted explanation for Burton's non-win despite seven nominations was that he had slept with too many Academy member's wives). He puts some grey streaks in his hair and falls over dead, Lohan slaps on a Liza Minnelli wig and some shoulder pads and cries. Oh, wait! Back to the nearly forgotten framing device.

So, this is the epitaph for the great romance of the twentieth century? She didn't throw away his letters? That is the ultimate proof of eternal devotion? Hell, i still have the letters of the most evil of my exes (he wrote quite a bit while he was in prison) and i certainly would not say that i'll love him until the end of my days. (Although i am a bit of a pack rat when it comes to the written word and i'm especially intrigued by any piece of paper that blasts out the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" whenever it is unfolded.... What? Only i can hear that? Never mind.)

It's no wonder they waited until Elizabeth Taylor passed on to render forth this travesty. While i doubt she could have stopped it, the force of her displeasure would be enough to make the folks at Lifetime think twice. I'm imagining full excommunication from any party of note, having most of your phone calls ignored, your credit line declined on Rodeo Drive and in Gstaad, as well as being denied the services of any of the gays of West Hollywood, be they hairdresser, makeup artist, stylist, agent, producer or Geffen. in fact, such a mandate may exist even as the Grand High Exalted Mother of the Abbey has passed on from this world. Although i suppose no one can punish Lindsay Lohan any worse than she has herself already...
Really, bitch? I think not.


  1. But other than that, how was the TV movie?

  2. Sadly mediocre. It could have been fabulous insanity, but the script was ass and Lohan is incapable of, well, anything.