The Lifetime movie Liz and Dick seems to have aspired for a nostalgic and dreamy tone. Instead, it is depressingly artificial. At times, this artificiality works in its favor: the visual style is gaudy but also beautiful. But when it comes to the storytelling and acting, artificiality is an irredeemable flaw.
The issues with plot development and acting are closely intertwined. The love story of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton has been mythologized extensively and seems like a solid choice for a film adaptation; the problem does not lie in the source material, but in the tin-eared writing. The script strikes an awkward balance: far from realistic, but not bad enough– or not bad in the right way– to be amusingly cheesy. It is just lifeless.
It would be a challenge for even the most talented actors to pull off the movie’s dialogue without sounding ridiculous. Lindsay Lohan, playing the role of Elizabeth Taylor, certainly does not rise above the limitations of the written material. One of the few ways that she manages to convey emotion is by throwing wine glasses at various surfaces in her mansion; Grant Boler, who does a moderately better job in his portrayal of Richard Burton, tends to watch her from the sidelines, looking bored. Neither actor comes close to redeeming the movie.
The one quality that makes it intermittently watchable is the visual style. The shots are well-composed and filled with lush colors. Some of the costumes are outstanding: Lohan alone wore 66 different costumes throughout the movie, a few of which actually belonged to Elizabeth Taylor. Unfortunately, the costumes seem to be the only parts of the movie that are either historically accurate or the least bit entertaining. In the end, the filmmakers prove that they are about as likely to bring “Old Hollywood Glamour” to modern TV screens as they are likely to bring Elizabeth Taylor back to life.
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