First of all, if you are actually interested in Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — or even if you are just interested in Old Hollywood, rich boozehounds who make impulsive decisions, or epic romances — I strongly suggest you read Furious Love, the book about their relationship that came out a couple of years ago. It’s a great read, it clearly was part of the required reading for whomever wrote this movie, and it’s about 700% better than Liz & Dick, especially since Lifetime seems to be implying that Richard Burton was a vampire:
IF ONLY. That would make this version of their love story way more interesting — and honestly far less confusing than Lifetime’s take, which rarely tells the audience what year it is and gives you literally no backstory on Liz, Dick, Cleopatra, or, in fact, anything factual that happens during the vaguely specified years during which this movie is set. It’s like they decided against exposition as a concept entirely.
Anyway, we start at some point in the early 80s, with this gun that will NEVER GO OFF:
A) I love the idea that you could just address a letter to Elizabeth Taylor like this and it would get to her. Honestly, it probably would have. I’m sure all the postal carriers in Bel Air knew which house belonged to Ms Taylor.
SPOILER! He dies! Actual spoiler: the letter we just saw, which we’ll never see again, actually arrived at Liz’s house when she returned from Burton’s London memorial service. Burton had written that home was where Elizabeth was, and he wanted to come home again (never mind that he was married to someone else at the moment, as that never stopped the two of them before). Can you imagine getting that letter from the love of your life, THE DAY YOU RETURN FROM HIS MEMORIAL SERVICE? Can you imagine writing a movie about said love affair and NOT INCLUDING THE SCENE WHERE ELIZABETH — who kept Burton’s letters by her bed until the day she herself died — READS SAID LETTER?
You can if the actress who would have to play that scene is Lindsay Lohan.
Welcome to the section of the movie that takes place on the Astral Plane. No, I am not kidding. At first you might think this is some weird Inside the Actors’ Studio construct to the film, but it only happens occasionally and they seriously seem to be commenting on their lives from The Beyond, especially since they’re wearing matching outfits (no wings, so maybe they’re both in Purgatory [this movie would be unsubtle enough to do wings and harps if it were heaven]) and they do a lot of reflecting and crying. Having dead protagonists looking back on their lives is not at all a bizarre choice for a framing device for a TV movie.
We get down to business, of course, on the set of Cleopatra. There is no backstory about the movie given at all; there is, in fact, hardly any backstory given period, which….listen, I know these are actual people, but even when you’re telling a real story about real famous people, you need to remind everyone what’s happening: Elizabeth Taylor is a huge star on her fourth marriage, this movie is hugely over budget, etc etc etc etc. A bit of a Previously On, when the “on” refers to, like, HISTORY.
Do you like gladiator movies?
There is literally a moment here, while Richard Burton is bumbling all over the place like they just dropped him off in an emergency actor’s airlift from the Royal Shakespeare Company and he’s never seen a movie set before, where they cut to two whimsical reaction shots from Taylor and Burton looking all smug about him ON THE ASTRAL PLANE.
That never happens again in the rest of the entire film. In fact, the front hour of this movie is edited like the whole thing is going to be nine hours long — all full of whimsical smirks from heaven and shit — while the last hour of it is edited like someone is holding a gun to the editor’s skull.
Back to it:
Lindsay’s eye makeup deserved its own credit. I’m just going to say it.
She and Richard do not hit it off on set at all. Nor do they hit it off when he abandons his own long-suffering wife and stalks Liz to dinner — where she is, as you can see, wearing Lemon Breeland’s hair jewelry — and snags a table next to her so he can pontificate loudly about, seriously, her “spilling, white, hot bosom.”
At this, she storms out. I prefer to think that the actual Elizabeth Taylor — married four times, a consummate professional, one of the first actors to ask for points on a production as part of her contract, and a woman who saved Montgomery Clift’s life when he crashed his car into a tree in front of her house and was choking on his own teeth by having the presence of mind and lack of squeamishness to reach INTO HIS THROAT AND REMOVE SAID TEETH, like a baller — would have just rolled her eyes.
Elizabeth’s rejection of his dinner-table-adjacent wooing causes Dick to get real drunk, which apparently happens a lot:
That’s his long-suffering wife Sybil (who really was long-suffering, and who also held out for ages against divorcing him), and his also long-suffering brother Ifor, who is extra-long-suffering given that he eventually gets paralyzed. This movie spends a LOT of time having poor Ifor lecture Dick about Liz, even while Liz&Dick have him on their staff&living at their villa.
The next day — hungover — Dick flubs all his lines, so Elizabeth invites him back to her trailer (which literally has Corinthian columns in it because Stars Are Not Just Like Us) for a drink, because that is definitely the best way to handle an alcoholic. (Although, per Furious Love, toward the end of his life, it was also the only way Burton could work.)
He puts the moves on her. Her reaction is basically, “I SAID GOOD DAY SIR,” except with a weird hybrid accent that floats in and out of the scene like a plastic bag caught on a gust of wind, and that we never really hear again. “I’ve heard all the stories of the Welsh Don Juan! All of the leading ladies, except Julie Andrews! Well, if she can resist you, so can I,” poor Lindsay announces. A) Leave Julie Andrews out of this, and B) in fairness, the phrase “Welsh Don Juan” is hard to reel off in a quasi-English accent, and, finally, C) this script seriously needed, as Liz did, another pass.
Eddie Fisher — whom Liz allegedly “stole” from Debbie Reynolds, although the truth of the matter is a little more murky, given that a person can’t be stolen like a bracelet, and also that Fisher was really good friends with Taylor’s husband prior to him, Mike Todd (who died really quite tragically in a plane crash [in a plane Liz was supposed to be on; Taylor cheated death A LOT] so there was some complex emotional shit happening with these two, I suspect) — pops over to Rome to visit, and they run into Dick and Long-Suffering Sybil at dinner, because god knows there are so few restaurants in Rome:
Dick, of course, invites them to join him and L-SS — he doth protesting too much about Liz the entire time — but Liz resists. In the interest of niceness, I will say that Lilo looks great in that dress, and should wear that style and color more often.
Sybil isn’t buying any of this.
Back on the Cleopatra set — a film shoot so insane that they could make an entire movie about it alone (it is still the most expensive movie ever made, and almost sent 20th Century Fox literally into bankruptcy; Taylor nearly died during filming; the first cut was six hours long and the director unsuccessfully fought to make it into a Twilight-esque two-parter) — this is happening in Liz’s trailer:
I am not kidding when I tell you that this is my current Facebook cover photo, and it is the perfect thing to be wearing when you get the apparently surprising news that you have to do a love scene with your leading man in a movie about one of the greatest love stories in history. I guarantee you that neither Taylor nor Burton (who ALSO acts like they just told him he was actually going to have to wrestle Cleopatra’s asp) were at all shocked by the information that they were going to have to make out in character, but OUR Liz and Dick can. not. believe it!!!
They get over it, mostly because Burton does this:
“Are you staring at my chest?” she asks him, before he dry-humps her. “Why not?” he says. “It’s the very heart of you. It promises everything: love, sex, and nuture (sic).” And because Liz can not resist a man who tries to have sex with her in front of everyone she knows, INCLUDING HER OWN MOTHER, while she is supposed to be working, SUDDENLY THEY ARE IN LOVE.
Thus begins what is essentially a montage of them making out while film PAs keep telling Eddie Fisher and Long-Suffering Sybil that Liz and Dick are: in wardrobe, in makeup, in a meeting, in a coma — anywhere but where they actually are, which is macking in Liz’s trailer (which suddenly seems to be furnished with knickknacks she stole from the set).
The press, however, is on to them:
There is also a fascinating movie somewhere about how this affair LITERALLY changed movie PR forever but this is not that movie. This movie doesn’t even really exploit the conceit of using tabloids to move the story along very efficiently and as someone who used to work in TV, I am dying to give that network note to SOMEONE. And while I’m playing Network Exec: OMG, this movie has the most lackluster act outs I’ve ever seen. USE A MUSIC STING WHEN YOU GO TO COMMERCIAL. HAVE YOU NEVER SCORED A MOVIE BEFORE? You are LIFETIME. Does ANYONE know better than LIFETIME when to go to the DUM DUM DUM DUM? I didn’t think so. Until now.
ANYWAY. Escandalo, blah blah blah.
Long-Suffering Sybil reacts to the affair predictably, slapping Dick right across the face and making all kinds of tragic mewling sounds about LIES!!!!!!
Eddie Fisher blows it all off as a brilliant PR plot….until he gets home (I have no idea where they actually are; I assume this is still supposed to be Rome, although that house is CLEARLY in Los Angeles) and Liz&Dick are throwing a rager:
At which Dick forces Liz to announce which of them she loves more. She isn’t really thrilled about this turn of events:
But she still chooses Dick.
Does she ever:
And there is apparently something so potent about their Lifetime-approved bathtub-and-candlelit-lovemaking that it makes Richard Burton decide he should wear a sheet-turned-toga around the house while Liz makes eggs and tries not to ash into their breakfast.
But lo! Even their Love Nest in an Unspecified Location is not safe from the paparazzi! Liz handles this by mooning the photogs, in a scene I would have hoped Lindsay Lohan — veteran of the 2008 Summer of Celebrity Vulva — would have played with just a touch more verve:
Something about the thrill of finally giving the paps a real show, however, makes Liz want to buy things — although I think her actual motivation in this scene was, “shit, we haven’t had him buy her any jewelry yet. Shoehorn that in there somewhere. Do you think we can make a White Diamonds joke? Too on the nose? SERIOUSLY, FOR THIS MOVIE? Okay, fine.”
But jewels are all that Dick can truly give her, because when they leave Vin Cliff and Arfals (no product placement in this movie, always a bad sign for your production), one of the very helpful paparazzi yells in Dick’s general direction, in a hilariously over-the-top “Italian” “accent,” “your wife-a attempted-a the suicide, yes?!?!” And Dick is all, “huh?” and the paps are all, “SUICIDE-A, YES?!?!” and so Dick shoves Liz in a cab with a sort of Michael Mancini-dealing-with-Kimberly-Shaw eye roll and goes off to deal with Long-Suffering Suicidal Sybil.
While he has what was surely a dramatically interesting conversation with L-S-S-S, Liz sits at home and thinks, “welp, my love life is a mess, but at least this floor runner is spectacular.”
That is, until Dick comes home and tells her, “I can’t. It’s as simple as that. I can’t,” which is a great way to get out of having to write a really thrilling fight scene between two histrionic actors who loved a good fight.
Liz doesn’t take the old “I Can’t” excuse particularly well:
She really doesn’t take it well at all.
Like, at all AT ALL. I mean, look at her bottle of VODKA. The woman doesn’t even get to attempt her own booze-and-pills-fueled suicide with a brand name. THINGS ARE THAT BAD.
FYI, from what I’ve read, this entire escapade where Elizabeth ODs was much more complex than this movie is making it out to be. If I recall correctly, Burton told Taylor he couldn’t leave Long-Suffering Sybil, and they had an EPIC BLOW-OUT (the kind of fight most writers would love to write; I continue to wonder what happened here) and she threatened to kill HERSELF since it was clearly so EFFECTIVE and HE was all, “GO AHEAD IT WOULD SOLVE A LOT OF MY PROBLEMS” and she was all, “OKAY, I’MMA CALL YOUR BLUFF” and took a bunch of pills, and he was all, “goddamn it,” and took her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. (If someone else has read Furious Love more recently than I have can correct me there, please do.)
So Dick takes her to the hospital and doesn’t even have the decency to drape her in a fur, first:
But she’s fine and goes back to work and it’s soooo awkward between them on set. This is why they tell you not to get involved with a coworker, by the way. He’ll go back to his Long-Suffering Wife out of a sense of crushing guilt and you’ll drink a whole bunch of VODKA and need your stomach pumped and then you guys will have to act together in a scene that clearly has Meta-Meaning For Your Life — even if the director denies it — and then you will just stumble back to your trailer and change into a red caftan and bawl onto his chest and hope your fake eyelashes don’t come off:
Because this clearly this isn’t working out very well for either of them emotionally, once they wrap Cleopatra, Dick goes off with Long-Suffering Sybil, and Liz heads to Switzerland with her kids, where she finds, to her surprise, that she is ALSO long-suffering:
Liz even sits up on her chaise longue and screams to the heavens, “I’M BORED. I AM SO BORED,” at which point I am sure it was all her mother could do not to smack her over the head with a snowshoe. And I fear that, on the actual Astral Plane, the Actual Liz Taylor is getting really irritated with this portrayal of her as a spoiled, petulant child.
Albeit one with GREAT HATS:
I don’t know what YOU wear when your mom drops you off for your meeting with your former lover in some undisclosed Swiss location, but I, like Liz, WOULD wear a fur turban and a matching coat. I have to say it: well played, costumers. You are doing yeoman’s work on this project, and Lindsay looks alternately INSANE and kinda great, which is what I think we all wanted. Bonus shout-out to the set people and props folks: This movie had a wealth of fantastic bar carts, and for that I salute you. I love a good bar cart.
Oh, right, the movie. I don’t want to shock you or anything, but Liz and Dick get back together. Are you worried that we’re nearly an hour into this movie and they haven’t even gotten married for the first time? Neither are the editors! Nope! EVERYTHING IS FINE YOU GUYS THE PACING ON THIS MOVIE TOTALLY ISN’T GOING TO BITE US ALL ON THE ASS.
During another Hot&Heavy Liz&Dick makeout sesh, Dick gets a call from Long-Suffering Sybil. He races over to Casa LSS, where Ifor — the brother you forgot he had, because apparently Ifor decided to live with with his sister-in-law — gives Dick the old GET A GRIP, THAT WOMAN WILL MARRY ANYONE WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU DO YOU WANT TO BE NUMBER FIVE?? speech:
“An affair, born of betrayal, will END IN ASHES,” Ifor announces dramatically to close out his Get-A-Grip duties.
While they’re having their bro-chat, Liz is at home throwing hotel china at the wall. WATCH OUT FOR THAT BAR CART, LADY, because it is a beaut:
Just in case we were confused by what was meant by crashing china and crying, Astral Plane Liz pops in to tell us this was a frustrating time in her life. Eddie wouldn’t divorce her, Sybil wouldn’t divorce Richard, and “I guess I had never had anyone say no to me before.” Again, an interesting observation that I wish had been given to us in scene rather than from On High. Honestly, I think part of the problem is that this movie is trying to shove a lot into an hour thirty, and is ALSO incapable of producing scenes that last longer than five lines — seriously, every scene in this movie feels so short as to be part of a Liz&Dick Never-Before-Seen-Footage Clip Show — which means that EVERYTHING feels under-explained and poorly developed and YES FINE I AM BASICALLY ARGUING THAT IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A MINI-SERIES. Even though that might have killed me.
Anyway, I guess Liz is still working on The VIPs with Dick (a movie I have never seen, which she forced him to get her cast in). Her life is a mess – still, again — but at least she looks totally fantastic in this giant fur hat and bitchin’ sunglasses:
And The Nanny’s Mr Sheffield is her director! (On Twitter, one of you brilliantly pointed out that Elizabeth Taylor herself guested on the The Nanny once — which, what? — so this is kind of a nice inside-baseball moment. Although if we were going in that direction, she was also the voice of Maggie Simpson, so it would have been great if Marge had popped up as a beehive-loving hairdresser.)
It turns out that the hat Liz wore to set is also the hat she wears in that morning’s scene with Dick, which makes me think that SOMEONE needs to be policing Miss Taylor’s wardrobe more carefully. Anyway, this scene they’re filming is RIFE with PERSONAL MEANING, and so of course Liz picks a huge fight with Dick about it — in which he calls her “MISS BOSSY BOOTS TAYLOR” because SNAP –because this movie decided to make Elizabeth Taylor a giant spoiled brat. I am sure Taylor was occasionally petulant — she was a child star and the most famous woman in the world, after all — but she was also the first major celebrity to champion AIDS research (Wikipedia says she helped raise over $270 million dollars for it), a cofounder of amfAR (after her friend Rock Hudson died), and gave half a million dollars to help Katrina victims who couldn’t get HIV treatments in the wake of the hurricane. I know this movie isn’t a straight biopic, and all of that is out of its sphere, but I’m honestly kind of annoyed on her behalf that they’ve made her look like such a dipshit.
Okay, a dipshit with a fantastic cigarette holder.
And a really great fur cape that I kind of want:
Bossy Boots Taylor apologizes to Dick for her bad behavior with sex and a little Butterfield 8 role-playing:
This is right about where I can’t entirely tell (given the non-resolution to Dick’s trip to see LSS) if they’re officially together or not and reflect that their friends — of whom there are none in this movie — must have wanted to kill them both. I can just picture Monty Clift going to brunch with Liz and rolling his eyes over the eggs Benedict. “Can we talk about something else now, PLEASE?” he would say. “Look at your life. Look at your choices. Liz, he is never going to leave her!”
HOWEVER! What does Fanfic Monty Clift know? Because the other thing Liz does to make it up to Dick is force the Long-Suffering Hotel Concierge — hey, Concierge, have you met Sybil? You guys would really hit it off and I hear she’s going to be on the market soon– to let her into Dick’s suite (TO WHICH SHE HAS THE ADJOINING SUITE ALREADY) so she can hang up this Van Gogh she bought him:
Long-Suffering Sybil is NOT AMUSED and in fact FINALLY agrees to divorce Richard. ART HAS FORCED HER HAND.
And with Long-Suffering Sybil out of the picture at last — no pun intended — it’s PARTY TIME!
Except neither Liz NOR Dick can get any of their friends to come out for a YAY THAT BITCH AGREED TO A DIVORCE!!! party with them — because of the ESCANDALO, I guess, it’s all very vague — and they are forced to go out by themselves.
The irritation of being snubbed by polite society for being so whore-y (I’m paraphrasing) causes Liz’s fake lashes to do a runner. Buck up, girl. You are Elizabeth Freaking Awesome Taylor — five husbands nearly down and three marriages to go — and you don’t want to go to dinner with those uptight nerds anyway.
This seems to be the opinion that Elizabeth herself comes around to here, where — in Lohan’s most charming and natural scene — she and Dick banter with Long-Suffering Concierge about whether or not they’re going to want two suites or one, once the bill is coming to them and not the movie studio. AKA: will they be living in sin, or what? (The answer: definitely sin.)
In fact, they decide to forgot London all together and go to New York — “they love us in New York!” — so Richard can do Hamlet on Broadway.
In actuality, this production of Hamlet came about — if I recall correctly, although Wikipedia backs me up — because Burton and Peter O’Toole had too much downtime during the filming of Becket and came up with this plan that Dick would do Hamlet in NYC and Pete would do it in London, but that factoid doesn’t really move this story along and also in this version of things, as you know, neither Liz nor Dick have any friends. I am sad there was no Peter O’Toole in this movie, though, because no tale of drunken British actor shenanigans is truly complete without Peter O’Toole. Of course, that version of events would also unfairly gloss over Liz’s cute 60’s tie and pale-lip combo, which I kind of like on Lilo, so let’s just take it.
Unfortunately, it turns out that that PORTIONS of New York are not that keen on the Liz&Dick show:
Especially the nutjob not pictured who was carrying a sign reading, SLUT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Nowadays, that girl would have a blistering Tumblr and just be the worst.
The Pope is also Not Loving It:
Insanely, and fascinatingly, that actually happened. I do like the idea of the Pope hurrying back from his Pope Meetings to catch Access Hollywood, or whatever, though. “We’re guilty of erotic vagrancy,” Liz reads. Man, I haven’t been guilty of erotic vagrancy in FOREVS.
Anyway, FINALLY, Liz puts the screws on Eddie Fisher — in part, I think, to get the Pope off her jock — and he agrees to their divorce. I kind of wish this movie had managed to explain to the audience why it was so hard to get a divorce if you wanted one and the other person was being recalcitrant, back in the day, but I also wish Liz was played by someone who didn’t need this movie to be much better as badly as Lindsay does, and we obviously can’t have everything. I do enjoy that Liz wears her Serious Business Hat for this event — and that she forces Eddie to stop doing a song called “Cleo, The Nympho of the Nile” in his act. That mere fact makes Eddie Fisher sound like kind of a douche. Shut up, Eddie Fisher.
PS: Have you guys been keeping count of the turbans in this movie? Because there are so many and it makes me so happy. Like this one:
That ruffled-collar trench is also extremely cute. I don’t even need this photo to move the plot along, I just thought you should know about the cute ruffle-collared trench and the hat.
So. An hour and seven minutes into this thing, Liz&Dick FINALLY get married for the first time:
I suppose it was wise of Erotic Vagrant Elizabeth Taylor to pass on wearing white.
Liz also then helpfully exposits that it’s been two years since they met — the pacing of this movie made it feel, perversely, more like twenty — and then she puts on her Honeymoon Turban and they jet off to….somewhere.
WHO CARES WHERE YOU’RE GOING WHEN YOU’RE WEARING A HONEYMOON TURBAN?
Eventually — or right then, who even knows? — they get back to New York so Hamlet can premiere. (I think they got married in Toronto while Hamlet was in previews, something they could have explained by having Liz call her mother and say, “we’re getting married in Toronto while Hamlet is in previews.” Why wasn’t I allowed to give notes on this script?!)
Obviously Elizabeth is transfixed by Dick’s talents. (His Hamlet was filmed for theatrical release and it is on YouTube [that link goes to his To Be Or Not To Be], and it will make you sad about the acting in this particular TV movie, although even I don’t think it’s fair to compare poor Grant Bowler to the actual Richard Burton.) Note that this is Lindsay’s I’m Enamored of You face, last seen two seconds ago on the plane in her Honeymoon Turban.
I do think her expression changed at the end of the play, where the blocking has Bowler-as-Burton-as-Hamlet….just collapse dead into his co-star’s lap with literally no preamble at all.
You can kind of tell in this scene that Bowler is trying to sort of…imitate the actual Burton’s delivery, but it really just does not work. It’s not Bowler’s fault — he is TRYING throughout this movie, and I feel like he must have gone home and bewailed his life choices nightly throughout filming — but oy, talk about setting an actor up to fail by making him pretend to be Burton doing freaking Hamlet.
In addition to awkwardly blocking his character’s death — maybe a dance class would help? — Dick also brings Elizabeth up on stage during curtain call, which was a huge hit with the audience, but maybe not so big a hit with the rest of the actors, judging from their facial expressions. Stage Left there is totally mentally writing his rude, judgmental sign to hold up outside the stage door.
Afterwards, Liz and Dick meet Steve and yell at him for cheating on Miranda. Steve explains that everyone acted like an ass during both of the SatC movies and they can’t hold it against him. They see the wisdom in this and agree to be in his new movie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
But first! (To quote Julie Chen) First, they have to go to the Academy Awards, where Liz wears a terrible dress and Dick has to use all of his considerable acting talent not to go totally apeshit with rage when he loses Best Actor to Lee Marvin.
He storms out and she runs out to comfort him and blah blah blah, what I am really annoyed about is the fact that Liz Taylor actually wore an AMAZING turban to the 1965 Oscars (if that photo is accurately sourced) and it’s not like this movie didn’t already have a ton of turbans. USE YOUR HISTORICAL TURBANS, PEOPLE. Where is the turban accuracy?!
That thing is a pistachio nightgown and it’s not going to make ANYONE feel any better (although Lindsay, as a very cajoling Liz, was pretty good in this scene). And in fact, it does not, because Burton is, as Liz puts it, “a big SULK” about losing. Which I believe is historically accurate. Which is why it is a shame that he lost the next year, for Virginia Woolf, too. Two big sulks in a row is a lot for any man to endure.
I do, however, appreciate the amount of effort wardrobe and makeup did for the brief Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? shots. Behold:
This is kind of the most accurate that Lilo-as-Liz has looked, which is not really a good thing for her.
She also kind of looks like Stockard Channing-as-Rizzo there. Additionally not good: Liz&Dick bicker&fight throughout the premiere, which had to be incredibly annoying for everyone else….
…and then they go home and have a big old fight. Again. Some more.
I don’t even remember why. Because no glassware had been destroyed in over fifteen minutes?
OH WAIT. I think they’re fighting because Dick hates it when Liz gets attention for her acting and Liz hates that Dick is a big baby about it, but REALLY what they’re upset about is how fat they both are. YES, FAT. Even though both Lohan and Bowler look LITERALLY EXACTLY THE SAME AS THEY HAVE IN EVERY SCENE UP TO NOW AND LINDSAY IS CLEARLY NOT AT ALL FAT IN ANY WAY, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE LIZ’S FAT PHASE AND WE KNOW THAT BECAUSE:
This is just patently ridiculous. If she’s supposed to have gained weight, and she won’t gain weight for the part, and you don’t want to put her in a fat suit, you definitely DON’T put your lead actress in a totally cute and flattering red halter-top dress in which she looks as slim as ever. And you don’t then have Dick talk about how fat HE is when HE isn’t wearing any padding either and BASICALLY no one looks any fatter than they EVER DID. If NO ONE is willing to look fat for their big weight gain scenes — and, hello, everyone knows that weight loss/gains are awards catnip, so I seriously don’t know where this all went wrong — then just SKIP THE BIG FAT SUBPLOT.
AAAAAAAAAAAAANYWAY, obvs, Liz&Dick are both nominated for Virginia Woolf, news which they learn from Mexico, where they live now:
Liz and Dick loved Mexico and basically got so much attention when he was filming The Night of the Iguana in Puerto Vallarta that they turned it into a tourist destination, single-handledly. They also ran up a booze bill of something like $6000 A WEEK, so you can assume they are hungover in this scene. I do not know this from the movie, I learned it from Furious Love.
Richard refuses to go to the Oscars, because — as he is an aforementioned Big Sulk — he can not deal with losing in front of everyone again, and Liz won’t go without him, which means she doesn’t get to make this face for the world when she wins, but merely for everyone in Puerto Vallarta:
(Interestingly, Anne Bancroft accepted on her behalf. That video is of the 1965 Best Actress presentation, and it is so weird to see the nominees be basically stone-faced when their name is called. STONEFACED. Anne looks great and seems really nervous; Lee Marvin keeps calling everyone “girls” even though one of the nominees is like 60 years old. Bob Hope is there. The Oscars appear to be taking place in a gazebo. Ah, the 60s.)
Other problems in Mexico: that half-assed turban, the fact that they’re running out of money, and also that THIS MOVIE WILL NEVER END.
Since the Burton/Taylors are so poor — this is what happens when you are spending $6000 a week on booze and can’t stop buying jewelry — they decide to move to a yacht. As one does. It’s also easier to avoid the press/avoid paying your taxes when you live on a boat. (Unless the paparazzi become actual pirates, of course — a Lifetime movie I would love to see. Not Without My Candids: The Paparazzi Pirates Story.)
Unfortunately, although Liz has brought all her lucky headscarves, Liz&Dick fight on land and at sea:
This time, he’s pissed she brought her own photographer on board (fair enough, given that they moved to a boat to avoid photographers) and she’s pissed that he said she has fat fingers. So to make up for it, Dick buys Liz a giant-ass diamond ring, because when you’ve moved onto a yacht to save money it makes sense to bring and pay a personal photographer and also to blow a bunch of money on white diamonds.
I guess they have always brought her luck:
Eventually, of course, Liz gets bored of the boat and wants to go somewhere Christmas-y for Christmas. Somewhere it’s too cold to lie about in her leopard print bathing suit:
In case you are wondering, the movie really starts to feel like it’s treading water here and even the fact that Liz looks really cute in her cold weather gear when she gets the bad news that Lecturing Brother Ifor got real drunk and fell down the stairs at their chalet and broke his neck and is paralyzed doesn’t even move it along:
This news does, however, move Richard Burton along toward drinking more, which dominoes into making Liz match her lipstick to her dress to stand around and look concerned about him:
So….then they go back to the boat? I don’t know why? Mostly, I guess, because there are only 20 minutes left in this movie and Liz&Dick haven’t even gotten divorced the FIRST time, so in order to earn that, they have to get back on their yacht and have a really dumb&inexplicable fight about how Liz keeps listening to loud music in her halter-jumpsuit and headscarf while Dick is TRYING TO READ OKAY?!?!?!!?
In his defense, the song that finally drives him around the bend includes the phrase, “gotta get the funk/put it in your trunk” and that really ISN’T conducive to quiet study. It also explains why he throws the radio overboard.
Don’t you think all their friends are ready to just throttle the both of them? You get invited to a groovy jumpsuit disco party on the SS Liz&Dick and they spend the whole time screaming at each other while you are just trying to put the damned funk in your stupid trunk.
But don’t worry, our lovebirds make up. AGAIN. As usual, this involves a hat and a caftan.
Then Dick, in further adventures in NOT LEARNING HOW TO SAVE MONEY, LIKE, AT ALL, puts on his man-fur and BUYS A PLANE:
He tells their Long-Suffering Money Manager that he’s given up drinking, and that will save enough money to buy them the plane. (I think they’re flying to Hungary so he can start filming Bluebeard, a totally shitty movie he did FOR the money. RICHARD BURTON IF YOU WOULD STOP BUYING PLANES AND MAN FURS YOU WOULD NOT HAVE TO DO SHITTY MOVIES MY GOD DO THE MATH.)
Liz is having another tantrum about something — wearing her special tantrum caftan (her caftrum? Her Tantran? Let’s workshop that one) and Dick can only shut her up by offering to throw her a “huge 40th birthday party…a splendid, magnificent party”:
A party at which he does not drink, which means there is NO EXCUSE FOR THIS:
That is really ONLY a birthday cake you order for your beloved after you’ve had about nine bottles of gin. Worse yet, Liz overhears someone make a snide comment about the state of her career and has a total tantrum AGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIN and has to be cradled like a baby before she manages to get hold of herself. SEE:
She feels even worse when she wakes up and finds out that Paralyzed Ifor — who I guess they left in Switzerland while they went off on the yacht and then plane-buying and then birthday-bash-having — has gone and died. This, of course, shoves Dick right off the wagon.
He is promptly run over by the wheel:
Somewhere in the depths of a Lifetime edit bay six weeks ago, some poor editor was looking at this and thinking, “SWEET LORD. I only have FIFTEEN MINUTES LEFT and TWENTY YEARS TO GO I AM SCREWED.”
So, right off, they get Dick on a total brother-killing-guilt bender, cheating on Liz reaaaall quick-like:
You can imagine that she doesn’t take the cheating very well, and after trashing a London hotel room — very Chateau Marmont, Lindsay, way to be Method about it — she decides to start dating Aristotle Onassis to get back at Dick. LIKE YOU DO.
THIS is when the movie really starts just shoveling plot developments at us hot&heavy. It took an hour to get Liz&Dick married, and three minutes to get them fully broken up, and to move her to the famous address we all know as ELIZABETH TAYLOR BEL AIR:
Her caftan is lovely, and that fantastic rug is worth a fortune, but neither of those prevent her from making this face when she gets the divorce papers from Dick:
Liz calls Dick and cries and they establish that they are both totally, totally miserable, but getting divorced anyway, come hell&highwater, and then Astral Plane Liz pops in — Astral Plane Liz! We’ve missed you! — and notes that she wishes they’d moved to a goat farm OR A BOAT instead, like YOU ALREADY TRIED THE BOAT AND SEVERAL ELECTRONICS DIED ALONG WITH YOUR MARRIAGE FORGET THE BOAT FOR A HOT SECOND.
I would have liked to have seen the goat farm, though.
Thirteen minutes left. They still need to get remarried and one or both of them still needs to die. The editor is in a cold sweat.
And so is Liz, because — despite ANOTHER tremendous caftan — now Dick has gone and gotten engaged to someone else:
And she had to hear it from THAT crazy-looking lady.
She reacts to this shocking news by putting herself in traction:
BECAUSE WHAT? Taylor had lifelong back problems but other than having her make a throwaway comment in this very scene about her back being in spasms….I don’t even know. We are off the rails here, and this feels totally out of left field in the world of this particular Liz&Dick. Plot is flying at my head like baseballs at a batting cage. Although this Hospital Turban is a delight. So delightful, in fact, that both makes Dick call off his engagement AND it gives Liz possible colon cancer.
Who is this guy, you ask? NO IDEA. Her boyfriend? Her valet? A son? WE NEVER FIND OUT. And it doesn’t matter, since she just makes him go get Richard for her now that she thinks she might die. It turns out she’s totally fine — the test results were wrong — but they do decide to get remarried:
WITH SIX WHOLE MINUTES TO GO. Y’all need to work on your pacing, Lifetime.
And given that there are only six minutes left, here’s what happens: they get married in Botswana, then they get divorced (we never see what led to this, but are just asked to believe Astral Plane Liz and Dick when they tell us that it didn’t work) and then DICK DIES IN AN ASTRAL PLANE NARRATED MOMENT WHERE HE GOES “I’M SO VERY TIRED” AND THEN HE JUST KEELS OVER:
As Dick dies, so does Liz’s hair-do.
When she gets the bad news about Dick, Liz just collapses on the floor like a ten-pound bag of potatoes you drop trying to lift it into the trunk of your car. Poor Liz. This really should be more upsetting for us as viewers — it’s totally upsetting in Furious Love and it is objectively so sad — but Lindsay just looks SO RIDICULOUS, and this faint is so artless, that the emotion of the scene is completely negated:
Liz doesn’t go to Dick’s funeral — his current wife wouldn’t let her, especially since she probably knew Dick was trying to get back on that — but in real life, she did go to a larger memorial for him. The movie, though, just has her pop by his grave to cry:
I don’t know if Lindsay refused old age makeup or what but this is just silly. Girlfriend has been looking rough, but GOD. She doesn’t look anywhere near 65 years old. (Print that out and hold it next to your heart, Lohan.) HOW IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE AFFECTING AT ALL? I ask you.
And so that is how Liz and Dick ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
Oh, and with this:
All those many many letters that we never saw him write to her except once, two hours ago. Letters that were the backbone of their love story and which could have been a great plot device for this movie but everyone forgot about, kind of like they forgot that they had like six hours of plot left until they got to a hour twenty running time at which point this ship was — like the SS Junk/Truck — driven by pure terror. BRAVO!
Fuggery: 2-10. Real talk: the costumes were easily the best part of this thing. I have never seen so many fantastic caftans and turbans. You go, hair and makeup and wardrobe. You go, Glen Coco.
Fromage: 9-10. The only thing preventing this from earning full marks for cheese whizzery is the fact that some of the events in this movie actually happened and were not, contrary to what you might suspect, invented for full Lifetimeitude.
F*ckwittery: 10-10. From stem to stern, we all know this thing was a trainwreck. I mean, it inspired a GFY Drinking Game. Casting Lindsay in this role was at least half a PR stunt from Lifetime to begin with, and while I actually think she could have been worse, she needed to be TREMENDOUS for this to come across as anything other than a joke, and I don’t think she pulled it off. It is not entirely her fault. The script is a mess, and I think Lindsay needed a strong-bordering-on-controlling-lunacy director, a dialect coach, and a bunch of burly dudes tasked with keeping her inside every single night to sleep and study and prepare. This movie didn’t have the wherewithal for any of that. I actually think there were moments where she was a pleasure to watch again, but….we have a long way to go with this kid. Contrary to what you may believe, I actually am still kind of secretly pulling for her, but this was not the moment for her to make this movie.
Overall: 9-10. I will watch this hot mess every time it reruns. Grant Bowler, go out into that good night knowing that none of us hold this against you. I enjoyed you on Ugly Betty and you did your best. You go cash that paycheck and pay yourself something pretty with it. I advise against white diamonds.