Coming soon from DVD Verdict Productions: Appellate Judge Tom Becker...& Dick.
Glamorous. Infamous. Scandalous.
Ah, Lindsay…we meet again.
When last I saw you, you were a stripper gone to pieces in I Know Who Killed Me. After that bit of unpleasantness, we were kind of hoping you might get your act together, fulfill that promise that everyone saw in Mean Girls and the like.
But, things didn't work out, Linds. Since 2007, you made exactly two films, one of which went straight to DVD, and the other—Machete—featured you in a supporting role that wasn't received with universal kindness. You've been in the public eye, but as a tabloid star, your adventures in the courts, at clubs, and wherever trouble might find you making you a weekly, if not daily, fixture of gossip magazines and columns and TV entertainment news programs.
So, it probably seemed like a good idea to someone to have you play Elizabeth Taylor. After all, you were both child stars who grew up in public, right? And, like you, Taylor was also a fixture in the gossip columns, known for a number of scandals. How could it miss?
Of course, Taylor was also known as a talented and much in-demand actress who starred in several high-profile films, received a number of Oscar nominations (winning twice), and engaged in passionate romances with often tempestuous marriages. OK, if we can forget all that, then, yeah, Lindsay, you're a perfect choice to play Elizabeth Taylor—in a Lifetime movie called Liz & Dick about Taylor's relationship with Richard Burton, here impersonated by Grant Bowler.
Now, Lindsay, I don't know how much you knew about Elizabeth Taylor before you made this movie, but I can guarantee that by the time you were done, you knew even less. Liz & Dick barely skims the surface of these two complex personalities, presenting "ripped from 50-year-old headline" incidents with less insight than you'd find reading the cover of the Enquirer in a check-out line.
I will admit, Linds, that the make-up people didn't do a half-bad job; in some shots, you do have a passing resemblance to the late Elizabeth—not as compelling as, say John Belushi's resemblance, but not half-bad. Full-bad, unfortunately, comes into play when you start mouthing dialogue. Did you never listen to Elizabeth Taylor? She did not sound like a three-pack-a-day teenage smoker from the Valley, particularly when she was in her 40s. She enunciated, she didn't slur, there was an unmistakable cadence when she spoke, it's just…good grief, Lindsay, I could've dubbed you, and I'm a freakin' guy from New Jersey.
In fairness, Lindsay, this one's not all on you. Liz & Dick takes what was really one of the great romantic scandals of the 20th century and parcels it out like typical Lifetime movie fodder. Luxuriant decadence is translated by having Taylor and Burton drink, down pills, chain smoke, and have tepid sex (including, in the early scenes, in their Cleopatra costumes). For no apparent reason, we also get scenes of Taylor and Burton dressed in black and chatting, interview-style, presumably after Burton has died. I didn't understand it, Lindsay, so I kinda doubt you did, either, so don't feel obligated to explain it.
Grant Bowler, who plays Burton, seems like a perfectly agreeable fellow—which, unfortunately, is all wrong for the notoriously mercurial Burton. Taylor and Burton were known for their extravagance and passion, but Lindsay, you and Mr. Bowler…well, let's just say that if I were freezing to death and I had a pile of gasoline-soaked newspapers, I don't think I could count on the two of you to provide the spark to ignite them. Of course, you'd probably have a lighter, so at least we'd survive, right, Linds? j/k…
It's possible I just expected too much, which of course is ridiculous. It's a cheesy Lifetime movie that got more press than it deserved because of stunt casting. I'll admit, it was refreshing seeing pictures of you done up like Taylor in furs and jewels rather than seeing your mug shots plastered all over the place, but all the promotion did nothing to save the film. It looks cheap, is less intimate than a People magazine retrospective, and its recreations of scenes from Taylor/Burton films make it look like Taylor and Burton were working for Ed Wood.
Speaking of which, Lindsay, I have to ask: where did you get the cojones to re-create a scene from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?—you know, we're talking an iconic performance from an iconic movie. Did you even see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Have you heard of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I mean, for Pete's sake, there's a perfectly good DVD of it out there, if you'd just run it a couple of times, you'd have had a fighting chance of doing an acceptable imitation. Instead, what we get is wholly stupefying; unfortunately, it's also the highlight of this woebegone project.
The disc from E1 offers up a standard-looking clear image and audio. For supplements, we get a whole bunch of interviews from various cast and crew members talking about Taylor and Burton and what the film's about, and how they made it, and a whole a lot of other stuff that ranges from dull to embarrassing—not unlike the film itself.
You know, Lindsay, as I write this, you are beginning a stint at the Betty Ford Center. Small world that it is, guess who else stayed at the Betty Ford Center, around 30 years ago? Yes, Linds, I mean Elizabeth Taylor. Had you been at Betty Ford a year or so ago, you could have chalked it up to research.
While the lovely Ms. Taylor didn't have much of a career after her Betty Ford stint—or for a lot of years prior, for that matter—you, Linds, might just rise from the ashes of drink, drug, petty crime, and Lifetime movies like a Phoenix. Maybe you'll get to work with John Waters, or the Muppets.
Of course, and let's face it, Lindsay, if Liz & Dick had been made by John Waters and had starred the Muppets, it would have been a lot more palatable than what you helped serve up.
Great movies are supposed to affect our emotions and how we view the world. Liz & Dick sapped me of my will to live; does that count?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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