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Two months after Elizabeth Taylor‘s death in March 2011, Lifetime announced at its upfront presentation that it would be producing a movie based on the star’s tumultuous relationship with Richard Burton.
In April 2012, it was announced that Lindsay Lohan, in dire need of a comeback project, had beaten out the likes of Megan Fox for the lead role.
In anticipation of its Sunday night premiere, here is a sampling of what critics are saying about Liz & Dick.
In his review, THR‘s Tim Goodman says “don’t miss Liz & Dick,” but only because it “is spectacularly bad” and a “classic of unintentional hilarity.” Goodman says the star is “woeful as Taylor from start to finish.”
“At one point, Lohan has to shout, ‘I won’t live without you!’ and then run down a hall. It’s like a high school play,” Goodman writes.
“By the time Lohan is playing mid-’80s Taylor, and it looks like a lost Saturday Night Live skit, your body may be cramped by convulsions,” he says, then suggests the movie was made for drinking games.
Alessandra Stanley echoes Goodman’s observation in today’s New York Times: “There are moments in Liz & Dick when Lindsay Lohan looks a lot like Elizabeth Taylor,” Stanley writes. “There are others in which she looks like Elizabeth Taylor doing a Saturday Night Live impersonation of Lindsay Lohan.”
Stanley nonetheless says the actress isn’t “ridiculous” in the role but that “she is oddly passive, sleepwalking through scenes that call for passion and caprice.”
Entertainment Weekly‘s Ken Tucker similarly was underwhelmed, giving Liz & Dick a C- rating and describing it variously as “very peculiar,” “dinky” and “tin-eared.” About the star’s performance, Tucker says that a “wall goes up between the actress and us. Is it years of ducking tabloid photographers that have frozen her face into a blank stare?”
Instead of the real Taylor’s “high-register, girlish” voice — what the Times‘ Stanley calls “candied” — Tucker says Lohan provides line readings in “the raspy rattle familiar to anyone who has seen [her] on TMZ.”
“No effort seems to have gone into Lohan’s preparation other than tinting her eyes Liz-violet,” he writes.
Salon’s Willa Paskin disagrees with Goodman, saying “there is nothing ‘unintentional’ ” about the hilarious awfulness of the movie, pointing out that by its very “Lifetime movie” nature, the film is meant to be a subpar slice of overcooked melodrama.
Paskin says the framing device in which the two stars sit in director’s chairs talking directly to the camera actually serves Lohan well: “The destruction Lohan has wreaked on her own voice — it’s the come-hither, smoky growl of an equally jaded, but much older woman — works perfectly here. And with no blocking or costumes or screeching to worry about, she’s almost decent,” Paskin writes.
Maureen Ryan of Huffpost TV offers her review in bulleted format, offering a list of things a Taylor-Burton biopic should do: “1. It should establish Burton and Taylor as charismatic, complex people. 2. It should make the electricity of their relationship apparent. 3. It should be a treat for the eyes.” Needless to say, Liz & Dick “does absolutely none of these things.”
“Exploitation really is the name of the game here,” Ryan writes, noting that “the whole point of casting Lohan was to draft off her status as a formerly promising actress who some time ago became a tabloid fodder thanks to her career-destroying antics.” The movie is “badly paced, cheap-looking and encrusted with a tinkly, preposterous soundtrack that is designed to make viewers go insane,” Ryan writes.
Ryan also offers rules for Goodman’s aforementioned drinking game: “Take a drink every time you think a set looks cheesy; take a drink every time you think of better casting for the leads; take a drink every time you think you’ve spotted Bowler wondering if his check cleared; take a drink every time you spot Creed from The Office, because WTF?”
TV Guide‘s Matt Roush asks in his review, “What unbecomes a legend most?” before nominating Liz & Dick for the “TV Turkey Hall of Fame.” It’s “an epic of stunningly cynical and pathetic miscasting, a TV movie so laughably inept it doesn’t deserve to be on a first-name basis with anything resembling humanity,” he writes.
On a more promising note, Linda Stasi of the New York Post gives the movie three stars out of four, saying Lohan “is so often believable you might think you’re seeing the real thing.”
“There are so many things in this movie that are just so damned juicy,” Stasi notes,” that it is sure is [sic] more fun to watch than the exploits of today’s orchestrated star pairings.”
And Variety‘s Brian Lowry says the movie has “secret weapon” in Grant Bowler, who “classes up the movie in much the way Burton’s classically trained Shakespearean actor played off Taylor’s lifelong movie star.”
The famous couple “engage in epic fights, spend money like drunken sailors, take refuge from the prying press by living on a yacht, and struggle through Burton’s bouts of melancholy over failing to win Oscars,” Lowry writes of a movie that may be “wobbly” at points but that “ultimately stands on its own.”
Liz & Dick premieres on Lifetime on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 9 p.m.
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