Liz & Dick (DVD Review)30 May, 2013 By: John Latchem
Stars Lindsay Lohan, Grant Bowler, Theresa Russell, Charles Shaughnessy, Creed Bratton.
To hear the cast and filmmakers tell it in the 21 minutes of interviews included with the Liz & Dick DVD, there’s a certain logic in casting Lindsay Lohan to play Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor. Both were former child stars who would grow up to experience a litany of personal issues and a turbulent relationship with the press. And they both love diamonds. See, they’re basically the same.
Lohan looks beautiful in the role, but it takes more than violet contacts and a mole to turn her into Elizabeth Taylor. Lohan’s Taylor plays less like a Hollywood megastar and more like a prom queen.
This Lifetime TV movie tracks the whirlwind romance of Taylor and Richard Burton (played by Grant Bowler) throughout the 1960s and most of the 1970s. Apparently the script isn’t too sure how to tell the story, since it gives us two different framing devices to filter the plot: Burton writing a letter to Taylor on the last day of his life in 1984, and a bizarre setpiece of Liz and Dick sitting in a black room talking to the camera.
We only know they’re supposed to be in love because we understand the historical context of their affair, but the script seems more like an acting exercise than an authentic love story. There’s a TV movie progression to their relationship, which cuts to the chase with maybe three scenes of them insulting each other, then one kiss during the shooting of Cleopatra and they’re instantly in love, spending the rest of the movie dealing with the world trying to keep them apart.
Despite many of them being based on real people, any characters aside from Liz or Dick serve as little more than a mouthpiece to move the story along. And the re-creation of the Cleopatra sets and costumes look like the cheap Hollywood knockoffs that were the antithesis of the splendor the original film had been trying to achieve.
In true biopic form, Liz & Dick proceeds like a checklist of all the best-known moments of the famous couple’s life together. It touches on some of the more serious aspects of their relationship, such as Burton’s drinking and Taylor’s issues with weight (not that there’s any attempt to make Lohan look fat). The real hoot is watching Lohan at 26 trying to play Taylor at 52 wearing a bushy wig to simulate Taylor’s 1980s hairstyle. The movie makes no other attempt to age Lohan at all throughout the movie’s 24-year time frame.
But there’s some soapy fun if you can endure Liz & Dick for what it is: a TV movie about a forbidden love affair.