Lifetime's "Liz & Dick" is very bad, just as you knew it would be.
Let's not pretend it ever had a shot at being decent. The decision to cast Lindsay Lohan as Oscar-winning screen legend Elizabeth Taylor told us right up front that the filmmakers were more interested in trashy publicity than quality. She isn't good, but no one could be good with this dialogue.
On an online "Saturday Night Live" skit this week, Bobby Moynihan portrayed celebrity chef Guy Fieri responding to a New York Times review of his new Times Square restaurant, saying the paper shouldn't have had high expectations.
"If you come in expecting Le Cirque, then you're a le jerk," he says.
That applies here, too. But "Liz & Dick" isn't even good as junk food goes. It's redundant and boring in a way no star could save.
It's been suggested that the movie could at least be dopey fun, the stuff of drinking games. But that seems a perverse way to watch a movie about two people who, as portrayed here, were messy drunks. The only approporiate drinking game might be one where you take a shot of water every time you scream at the screen, "STOP DRINKING."
Because the producers invested nearly all their energies in stunt casting, the only point of interest is how Lohan looks and sounds as Taylor. Though she often looks lovely -- nice to see after her years of battling drugs and alcohol -- Lohan doesn't look like Taylor, just like someone wearing knockoffs of her clothes and diamonds. She also doesn't sound like her, or seem to be making any attempt to.
Taylor and Richard Burton (Grant Bowler) meet cute while making "Cleopatra" together and quickly fall into a dull cycle of making out, breaking up, drinking too much, fleeing the paparazzi, and conniving to make movies together. This takes up the middle hour or so of the two-hour movie, and requires that the last 15 minutes be stuffed with an absurd number of events, including (spoiler alert) a cancer scare, a remarriage, and a death.
It's impossible to feel any emotional connection with the characters, because, as portrayed here, they're self-centered asses. It doesn't help that the dialogue is awful, and that many scenes are less than 30 seconds long, which doesn't allow us into the characer's heads. The scenes are strung together by sub-sitcom transitional music that at least tips us off to the disposability of the entire movie.
Lohan will probably make the case, somewhere down the line, that her flat, vacant line readings were a campy attempt to distance herself from the film's many bad lines. One of the worst comes when Taylor's mother notes her tendency to get married a lot.
Mom: "Not that I'm counting, but if I'm not mistaken you've just ended, what, you're fourth marriage?"
Liz: "Who's counting?"
Well, not her mother, since she just said... never mind.
Bowler is better, handling his lines with the professionalism of a good soaps actor. At one point he gets to call Liz a "harridan" in an amusing Welsh accent. But he has none of Burton's gravity or grit. He may also be too generically handsome for the role, no suprise in a movie with no pretensions of depth.
Lohan's costumery is especially silly near the end, when her hair has grey streaks but she still looks far too young to play a woman in her sixties. We're also told throughout the movie how fat Liz and Dick are getting -- usually by Liz and Dick themselves -- but we have to pretend to see it, since the actors who play them remain trim.
Perhaps because of her own awful relationship with the press, Lohan seems unwilling to let herself appear vulnerable. It's become a major impediment to her performances.
Her idol, Marilyn Monroe, continued to study acting well into her stardom, and turned in some very good performances as a result. Lohan might want to imitate Monroe's interest in her craft, rather than just dressing like her for magazine spreads.
It's too late for her to do more than dress like Taylor.
"Liz and Dick" airs Sunday on Lifetime.