It’s the scandal of the century!
Not Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s affair ― that was last century, of course ― but Lindsay Lohan cast as Liz in the Lifetime TV movie Liz & Dick. The way people are chattering about it, you’d think it would be the highest-rated airing of the year. It’s the most-talked about TV movie Lifetime has had since… ever?
Unfortunately, the buzz is not good ― and as much as we’d love a triumphant comeback story for Lilo here, the movie earns every bit of criticism that’s been lobbed at it. In fact… there’s almost nothing that is good in it.
Liz & Dick should be shown in film schools as an example of how not to make a movie. And although we could probably make a list of 100 things that went wrong with the movie, we’ll keep it simple and use the unlucky number 13 to sum up our complaints.
13. The Pacing
We haven’t done the math on this, but if we had to guess, we’d say the average scene length in Liz & Dick is no more than 35 seconds. The film hurdles through several decades in these legends’ lives like it’s a race with Richard Burton’s death as the finish line. As such, there’s only time for a couple lines of dialogue per scene to establish what’s going on, then we’re off to a new time and place. It means that we as the audience are almost always disoriented.Stranger still, the movie frequently takes us to a black room where the ghosts of Liz and Dick seem to be narrating their lives...? It's not like the rest of the movie is so subtle that we needed commentary from beyond the grave to explain it all.
12. Lack Of Factual Accuracy
At one point, Liz says of Richard Burton, “We appeared in over 40 films together,” which immediately strikes us as unlikely. Turns out, that’s because it’s wrong. They have 28 credits together on IMDb, but many of these are TV appearances on talk shows. It’s more like 12 films together. And if director Lloyd Kramer and everyone else involved in Liz & Dick couldn't bother to get this simple fact right, what else in the movie is inaccurate?
11. Lack of Chemistry
Were both Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton bipolar? Not even their excessive drinking can explain how Liz and Dick from hate to love to hate to love… oh, about 600 times over the course of the movie. It’s never really established why they fall for each other in the first place… one moment, they're surprised that, as romantic leads, they have a love scene together (did they not read the script?), the next they're awkwardly making out in front of the whole crew… and we never understand why either of them is happy or upset at any given moment, despite the fact that they blatantly tell us. It's the cinematic equivalent of playing "He loves me / He loves me not," where they love or hate each other in every other scene.
Here’s a bad idea ― remake a scene from the classic Oscar-winning film Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (for which Liz won Best Actress) using Lindsay Lohan and Lifetime production values. There’s something particularly ironic about the scene in Liz & Dick that features bad actors playing great actors gathered around a radio, waiting to hear if they won Academy Awards… and we’re just like, “Keep dreaming, Lilo.” (Though we do see a Razzie in her future.)
9. The Score
It seems silly to pick on the score when everything else is so bad, but Lee Holdridge’s music is intrusively desperate at trying to convince us that Liz and Dick are falling in love, even when everything we know to be true about human nature tells us otherwise.
8. Repetitive Boozing
When Liz is upset about Richard leaving her, she drinks. When Dick is upset about his brother getting injured, he drinks. After Liz and Dick have a fight, they both ― you guessed it ― drink! Are you sensing a pattern? Basically every conflict in the movie is followed by a scene of Liz, Dick, or both guzzling alcohol and/or throwing a glass against a wall. There’s no variety, no escalation, and their alcoholism is as much a problem in the beginning of the movie as it is at the end, with no fluctuation or acknowledgement. We have a feeling the production's mantra was "Alcohol = DRAMA!!" Funniest of all: when Cleopatra wraps, the crew is shown with champagne already in hand. We doubt this was the case on Cleopatra… but it would explain a lot about what went wrong with Liz & Dick if everybody was intoxicated on set.
7. Lame Subplots
Did Elizabeth Taylor really attempt suicide the same day Richard Burton’s wife did the same? What an attention whore! One might hope that the supporting characters might distract us from the lackluster Liz and Dick themselves, but no. Characters like Dick’s brother Ifor are as woefully underdeveloped as the leads. At one point, we see Ifor fall down some stairs… but the character clearly isn’t important enough to the movie to actually follow up on that and give him another scene. Later we learn that he has died... again, off-screen. Dick cries, “I killed my brother!” but wait, what? Why does he think that? In a movie that is already cramming multiple decades into an hour-and-a-half running time, these supporting characters make zero impact.
6. The Dialogue
Few scenes actually follow up on a conflict that was introduced earlier. Theres no continuity from one scene to the next. It feels like lines of dialogue from other movies were written on scraps of paper, put into a hat, then drawn out and placed into the Liz & Dick script randomly. All the film’s clever lines are in headlines (a newspaper calls Liz “Cleo-Fat-Ra”) or on signs (a protestor’s reads “Slut On A Hot Tin Roof,” which would have been a better title for Liz & Dick). Dick does have one memorable moment when he calls Liz “Bossy-Boots Taylor,” which we like mostly because we can now start calling Lilo “Bossy-Boots Lohan.”
Okay, let’s set aside for a moment that Lilo is awfully miscast as Elizabeth Taylor, and looks nothing like her. Not even Meryl Streep could have saved Liz & Dick from its awful screenplay, but Lindsay’s performance doesn’t help. She’s either too self-consciously acting like a classic “movie star” or behaving too much like her modern-day self. She has none of the real Elizabeth's grace or elegance; she's just a childish brat. And even though Liz herself was an American star born in Britain, Lilo’s wavering accent does not nail it. There’s not a single second of the film where we actually feel like we’re watching Elizabeth Taylor. (Though in the final ten minutes, we might have believed she was Liza Minnelli.)
Believe it or not, Grant Bowler may just be worse as Dick than Lindsay Lohan is as Liz. At least, he’s more insufferable. Most of his dialogue consist of pretentious literary quotes and bad metaphors. As if to make up for Lilo’s loose contemporary portrayal of Liz, Grant is stiff as a board the whole way through. It’s like he thinks he’s acting in Cleopatra rather than Liz & Dick.
3. Lack Of Makeup
Many have joked about how Lindsay’s partying lifestyle has made her look like she’s in her 40’s, but she doesn’t really. Proof? She’s supposed to be in her 40’s ― and older! ― throughout much of Liz & Dick. What? You can’t just slap a wig on a girl in her mid-twenties and expect us to believe she’s twice her age! Why not dab on a little age makeup? There’s a similar problem with the subplot of Liz “gaining weight” ― but not wearing so much as a little padding to actually show it. Our theory ― maybe Lilo showed up late to set every day and makeup had to be scrapped so they shoot the scene. As a result, Lindsay’s embodiment of Elizabeth Taylor never rises above Halloween costume standards.
2. “I’m So Bored!”
Lindsay drinks. Sighs heavily ― twice. And then screams toward the heavens: “I’m bored! I’m so bored!” It’s the campiest moment of the movie, and almost makes the whole thing worth watching. But what happened here? Is this an expression of Lilo’s own frustration with the production? Did she even know they were filming this? Maybe it’s screenwriter Christopher Monger, typing out his true thoughts on writing this flat script. Either way, it’s the only moment in the dull Liz & Dick where we actually feel what Liz is feeling. Boredom.
1. Lack Of This Scene
How could Lifetime cast Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor and not include her infamously boozy appearance at the Golden Globes? There’s more comedy in this brief clip than in all of Liz & Dick, making us wish they had just made Liz & Dick Clark instead.
Did you watch Liz & Dick? Can Lilo ever recover? Let us know what you think!