Back when the promotional poster for Lifetime’s Liz & Dick was released, I announced that I was really looking forward to watching it, saying the following:
I want it to be terrible. TERRIBLE. I’m talking “Rob Lowe with a luxurious blonde mustache saying ‘I’m untouchable, bitch’ in the trailer, Pauly Shore saving a stereotypically backwards Southern town through the power of designer moonshine” terrible. Those kinds of crappy made-for-TV movies are like my life force; I need one every 4-6 months or I will just shrivel up and die.
Well, after watching it, I am pleased to announce that I will not be shriveling up and dying until at least March. It was pretty much everything I expected it to be, although the amount of hype and attention it got in the lead-up to its premiere almost set the expectations too high for me. I powered through because I am a professional, but still, it was a close call.
But, anyway, you probably have some questions. Please, fire away:
Was it awful?
OK. Here’s the thing. This movie had a big freckled target on its back from the start because it stars Lindsay Lohan. If Lifetime had cast, like, Lacey Chabert or whoever as Elizabeth Taylor, it wouldn’t have gotten half the publicity it did. And if it didn’t get half the publicity, then a bunch of “legitimate” news outlets like The Hollywood Reporter wouldn’t have ripped it to shreds in their reviews. And if it didn’t get ripped to shreds in a million reviews, then tons of people who typically wouldn’t have given a single backflipping sh-t about a Lifetime Original Movie that aired against football, Boardwalk Empire, and The Walking Dead on a Sunday night in November wouldn’t have tuned in and ripped on it all night on Twitter. I think that’s kind of important to remember before we start.
So … it wasn’t awful?
Oh God. Oh, no. It was definitely awful. Really, really awful. There was essentially no plot beyond “let’s show them fighting in a bunch of nice hotels,” and everything looked super-cheap and crappy, and the dialogue was PAINFUL at times, and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure Lindsay Lohan is capable of acting her way out of a wet paper bag even if you gave her a knife and a book titled How To Get Out of a Wet Paper Bag Using Acting and a Knife. But here’s the thing: It was a Lifetime Original Movie. OF COURSE IT WAS AWFUL. What the hell did people expect? Have you ever seen a Lifetime Original Movie? They’re all plot-challenged and cheap and full of silly dialogue. Liz & Dick wasn’t that much better or worse than 90% of the other made-for-TV movies that pop up on cable throughout the year. It just had a much brighter spotlight on it.
The whole thing reminded me of the New York Times review of Guy Fieri’s restaurant. Sure, it was funny to see someone rip that jamook’s deep-fried empire into a zillion little crunchtastic pieces, but, again, what did they expect? Really? That restaurant wasn’t made for the New York Times the same was this movie wasn’t made for legitimate critics and the type of TV viewer who watches Breaking Bad or Mad Men.
You seem kind of passionate about this.
Look, I take bad movies pretty seriously. I’m kind of an expert on them. Hell, I once wrote 2000 words about Karate Dog starring Simon Rex, so it bugs me a little to see a bunch of Johnny Come-Latelys walking in here and traipsing around my turf. That’s all.
So are you saying we can’t make fun of it?
I am absolutely not saying that. Let’s waste it.
GREAT! So what was the movie actually, like, about?
The tumultuous love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
How can we tell it is tumultuous?
Because, on no fewer than three occasions, Lindsay Lohan (as Liz Taylor) hucks a vase or bottle against the wall and sends glass flying everywhere. That’s how you know she’s angry.
Oh. What else happens in the movie besides the two main characters fighting?
Yup. Absolutely nothing. Every scene is exactly the same. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton start out sitting together peacefully (usually drinking and/or smoking), then one of them says something that doesn’t even seem all that bad, then he calls her fat, then she throws a vase, then they hump. The only difference is which exotic location they happen to be in at the time.
And this goes on for two hours?
Pretty much. Although sometimes it’s broken up by hilariously stereotypical Italian paparazzi dudes who run around yelling “AY! AY! I TAKE-A YOU PICTURE! YOUR WIFE-A ATTEMPT SUICIDE!” and stuff like that. They were great.
Were they your favorite characters in the film?
No. My favorite character in the film was the director played by Mr. Sheffield from The Nanny, who yells “I’M NOT HIRING ELIZABETH TAYLOR” into the telephone, then is immediately shown directing Elizabeth Taylor to her trailer. I wish they had included like 15 minutes of him just getting beaten down and losing that argument to the studio.
You said there was “PAINFUL dialogue.” Do you have any examples?
Sure. At one point a hotel employee tells Elizabeth Taylor that she can’t have a key to Richard Burton’s room, to which she replies “You do know I’m shagging him senseless, don’t you?”
Yeah, I know. And one time he called her “Ms. Pudgy-Digits” then got all “What?! What?!” when she got upset at him for it, like he was shocked she didn’t like someone mocking her fat fingers. That was pretty funny, but I originally thought he called her “Ms. Fudgey-Digits,” so it was actually kind of a letdown when I heard the correct line.
Yeah, that would have been way better. So what about the dude who played Richard Burton? How was he in the movie?
Hold on. One more thing. At one point some protestors are hanging around outside their house because everyone’s pissed at them for cheating on their spouses I guess (?), and one of the protestors has a sign that says “SLUT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.”
OK, anyway, the dude who plays Richard Burton, Grant Bowler, tried very hard and I felt bad for him throughout the movie.
Because he was always asked to do ridiculous stuff, like apparently carry Elizabeth Taylor from her bed all the way to the hospital when she attempted suicide, or die like an old-as-hell dog instead of a human.
Hang on. He died like a dog? What does than mean?
He just laid down on the bed one day and curled up into a ball and woke up dead. I was half-surprised he didn’t burrow his way under the porch or something.
Yeah. Not one for the old acting reel.
I guess not. So is there anything else I need to know about the film?
Two things: First of all, Creed from The Office makes a brief appearance, because … well, I don’t know.
And second, the whole film is semi-narrated/explained by Lohan and Bowler, in character as young Liz and Dick, in little interview clips interspersed throughout the movie.
Back up. Younger versions of themselves are explaining the actions of older versions of themselves, some taking place even after Burton dies?
So the film is narrated by … ghosts?
You said it, pal.