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Liz & Dick

Release Year:    2012
Studio:         EOne
Format:         Colour; DVD; NTSC; Subtitles; Widescreen
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:        1
Running Time:         90 minutes + interviews
DVD Release Date:         May 14, 2013
Screenwriter:         Christopher Monger
Director:         Lloyd Kramer
Actors:         Lindsay Lohan, Grant Bowler
DVD Features:         Bonus interviews
E:Top Picks Rating:         7/10

EOne Write-up:    
For nearly a quarter of a century, Elizabeth Taylor (Lindsay Lohan) and Richard Burton (Grant Bowler) were Hollywood royalty, and their fiery relationship was the most notorious and publicized celebrity affair of its day. Despite the controversy and scandal surrounding their tumultuous romance, Liz and Dick shared an undeniable love greater than most people could ever imagine.

BONUS
Interviews with Lindsay Lohan, Grant Bowler and more

Jon Ted Wynne Review:    
As something of a Richard Burton scholar and the author of a play called “Dick & Liz” (believe it or not), I approached this film with trepidation. And yet, like most people who find the story of the Burtons’ love affair so intriguing, I couldn’t wait. It turns out LIZ & DICK isn’t as bad as many people make it out to be.

There is no denying that Lindsay Lohan is inspired casting as Elizabeth Taylor. But no one stands a chance when compared to Elizabeth Taylor in her prime when she was one of the world’s great beauties and arguably the finest film actress of her generation. Were she somehow able to play Ms Taylor without being compared to her–only the distance afforded by time, perhaps, would allow for this– Ms Lohan might’ve come off better.

Ms Lohan plays sex well, though arguably sex is different from being sexy (and Elizabeth Taylor was definitely sexy). For example, about half the film is taken up with kissing and, luscious as Lindsay Lohan is, her sullied reputation conveys a person less in love and more going through the motions of intimacy. She never gets to the heart of Elizabeth Taylor (who certainly equated sex with love) though many of the essential ingredients are on display: vulnerability, childishness, vanity, etc. As a result, the emotional scenes never portray the passion they should. If the premise of LIZ & DICK is to tell one of the world’s great love stories, then we need access to the feelings and passions of the protagonists. Instead of being told Burton and Taylor are in love, we should be shown it. Going through the motions of intimacy, or jealousy, or quarreling isn’t convincing enough.

The production design is the real star of this biopic. The jewellery (essential in a film about Elizabeth Taylor) looks real, the sets are lavish, sometimes opulent, and the clothes, though sometimes ridiculous (oh, the seventies!) are right on the money.

Grant Bowler is very good as Richard Burton, though claims that his voice captures Burton’s timbre are highly exaggerated. Bowler conveys the essence of Burton, however: the insecure coal miner’s son who never got over the death of his mother. His relationship with older brother Ifor is explored reasonably well, though the lifeline Ifor represented to Burton isn’t fully examined. Bowler is a better actor than Lohan, which is problematic, given that Elizabeth Taylor arguably had the stronger personality. If not, she at least had the power, for Burton was constantly afraid she would leave him–which she eventually did. Here it is clear Ms Lohan is the star, but she is simply acting opposite someone who is better than her, which serves to undermine whatever star power she may have.

The real problem with LIZ & DICK though, is the script, which moves from climax to climax with such haste that it becomes comical towards the end. If this great love story is going to have the effect it is supposed to have on an audience then we must be made to feel the tragedy of it all. Trying to cover too much ground makes the story superficial, ultimately. Without the roots of character and psychology firmly planted, we simply can’t respond with the emotional investment tragedy requires from an audience. To truly plumb the depths of tragedy and sorrow and move beyond the shallowness of tabloid fantasy is the greatest challenge in telling this tale. People of privilege who live a life of riches beyond the imaginings of most of us must be seen to fall mightily if we are going to feel sympathy for them and thus deem their suffering tragic. It is sometimes a very fine line between catharsis (a purging of emotion as we respond with fear and pity) and comeuppance.

Make no mistake, this is a tragic tale, but mainly for reasons not explored here. Richard Burton was destroyed by Elizabeth Taylor. LIZ & DICK ignores that truth and tries to persuade us that Elizabeth’s suffering was the real tragedy here. We are told she kept Burton’s letters to her to the end of her life. Sorry, that is sentiment, not tragedy. Burton’s downfall and early death is a tragedy.

LIZ & DICK isn’t as bad as some say, but it could’ve been a lot better. For fans of Liz and Dick, there’s still plenty to enjoy. Just don’t expect, well, Liz and Dick.

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