November 26th, 2012
12:05 PM ET
Lifetime's "Liz & Dick" has become the TV event viewers love to hate.
There's been a flurry of biting (and, OK, pretty hilarious) commentary about the film leading up to and following its premiere Sunday night, which showed Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor and Grant Bowler as Richard Burton.
Over the course of 90 minutes, the movie swiftly retraced the legendary couple's stormy romance, interspersing the '60s-era story with scenes of the two dressed in black and addressing the camera directly from the grave.
It's not often a Lifetime production draws such an overwhelming amount of attention, and in this case it's due to "Liz & Dick" having Lohan as its star right as the 26-year-old actress works to turn her career around.
Yet while Lohan's talked at length about relating to Taylor's mega-wattage celebrity, when it came time for the world to witness the raspy-voiced actress as the late violet-eyed beauty few seemed to be buying it.
"From the moment she and Grant Bowler [as Richard Burton] sat side by side facing the camera in some mock-interview about their lives, a wall went up between Lohan and us: Is it years of ducking tabloid photographers that has frozen her face into a blank stare?" critiqued Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker of what he found to be a "peculiar, drab, damp little TV movie." "No effort seems to have gone into Lohan's preparation other than to have her eyes tinted Liz-violet."
Casting Lohan as Dame Taylor was a surefire way to draw viewers, said the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley, but she also thought that "Liz & Dick" could've been worse. It wasn't terrible enough to be "entertainingly campy," and the casting didn't help.
Using Lohan to portray Dame Taylor is "not a kindness to that actress, who fails to deliver the kind of breakthrough performance that augurs a comeback ... She isn't ridiculous in the role, and her eyes do look violet, but she is oddly passive, sleepwalking through scenes that call for passion and caprice." Bowler as Burton, meanwhile, offers a "pallid impersonation."
Time's James Poniewozik agreed that one can't definitively call "Liz & Dick" the "worst TV movie of the year" - there are cable public-access productions he hasn't watched, after all - but he does think that the makeup mole on Lohan added more to her credibility as Taylor than her acting.
"When Lohan is made up and still - slinking in a doorway, glowering into a mirror - the illusion is nearly complete. But when she opens her mouth, it’s all over," Poniewozik said. "Lohan simply never becomes another person the length of the movie: whether she’s meant to be showing spunk or pique or passion, she gives nearly every line the flat delivery of the first read-through of a high-school play." But to be fair, she couldn't "make a movie this bad by herself."
The Wrap's Tim Molloy placed blame with the script. "[Lohan] isn't good, but no one could be good with this dialogue," Molloy said. "['Liz & Dick' is] redundant and boring in a way that no star could save."
People magazine, however, pegged Lohan as the survivor in this scenario. "Completely miscast ... Lohan makes a reckless but brave dive into a pool that anyone can see is empty," said Tom Gliatto. "But Lohan, despite all her career troubles, is still a star."
Did you watch "Liz & Dick" last night? What'd you think?
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