In honor of the worst casting decision of the 21st century, I have enlisted the help of my dear friend and fellow bitchy blogger Sweeney (of Sweeney Says and Snark Squad fame) to tackle the unabashed atrocity that is Lifetime’s Liz & Dick. In case you dared to wonder what makes us qualified for such a campy, ridiculous job: we’ve been judging trannies together since we faked orgasms at auditions for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which we co-directed together not too many years ago. We are nothing if not experienced at yelling filthy things at shitty movies.
Sweeney: If this movie weren’t doomed to be forgotten as soon as we all stop laughing at it, I’d suggest we invent call lines and rally some people to drunkenly watch it in tacky costumes and gaudy makeup. It would be equally as appropriate.
Diva: Starring Lindsay Lohan as a pale imitation of Elizabeth Taylor, this movie should not be viewed sober. We highly recommend The Fug Girls’ Official Liz & Dick Drinking Game.
Diva: We open with paparazzi shots of the titular Liz & Dick. Headlines and camera bulbs are exploding constantly, and this is the most subtle part of the entire movie. It’s Lifetime, dear readers – if you were looking for nuance, you’re in for a long, drunk disappointment. Dick voiceovers in reminiscence as we see Liz as he first remembers her, glamming by the pool at a Hollywood party in the world’s most fantastic hat.
Sweeney: There are lots of fun and fabulous costumes here. The costuming was probably the only truly enjoyable job on this film, and I bet even that department spent a lot of time wondering what the fuck they were doing there.
D: Agreed. Cut to Old!Dick, decades in the future, ordering a maid to mail a letter addressed: “Elizabeth Taylor, Bel Air.” Um, unless this letter is traveling via owl post a la Harry Potter, I don’t think that letter is going to make it to its intended destination. The text on the screen tells us it’s THE LAST DAY OF RICHARD BURTON’S LIFE.
In a totally different but never actually clarified point in time, Liz and Dick are doing a confessional interview thing, talking directly to the camera about their relationship. This will happen a lot throughout the film, and Lindsay’s British-Irish-LA-drunkface accent will be wildly, distractingly inconsistent from start to finish.
S: I paused the video to document that I first laughed at something not meant to be funny at 2:59. This is promising news. That something, of course, being Lindsay’s horrible accent. It reminds me of the accent she used in The Parent Trap, only then it was adorably awful and now the association just makes me sad.
D: Just wait; it gets worse. Cut to the set of Cleopatra, in Rome in July of 1961, where they meet. Dick asks, “Has anyone ever told you you’re a very pretty girl?” She was a 29-year-old Academy Award-winning actress and megastar by this point, so I respect her for storming away from the conversation. Interview!Liz dangles a cigarette and glares at Interview!Dick with what looks like it should be love, but might really be disdain, or possibly an unfortunate smell in the mysterious interview room.
Dick can’t understand why he can’t find out where Liz is dining, but the press can – it’s because she tells them. Ah, a path Liz forged that Linds dutifully followed in real life. He requests a table next to her, paying off the host in full Christian Grey style.
S: More like partial; Christian Grey would have been more inclined to buy the restaurant, and then use that authority to kick everyone else out of the restaurant.
D: Good point. Anyway, Liz mocks him from the next table, he gets all Shakespearean and pretentious and basically starts sex-talking her across the restaurant. She and her mother and the rest of the party leave in a huff because sex-talking in public is not her scene. (JKLOLZ it totes is. Just wait.)
Our count of Liz & Dick drinking their problems begins with two consecutive scenes of them angry-boozing, and yes, the scenes do move this quickly because Lindsay presumably can’t remember more than three lines at a time. In her Cleopatra trailer, he makes a move, she flips, he calls her fat, it’s all very mature and I can totally see why these people got married not once, but twice. Liz and her husband Eddie encounter Dick and his wife at a restaurant, to show us that they’re both married. Thanks, movie!
S: As you said, subtley is hardly a cornerstone of the Lifetime Movie model.
D: I shit you not about this writing: the following two lines are uttered consecutively and without irony, while Liz & Dick are costumed up as Antony and Cleopatra. “A love scene – with HIM?!” “A love scene – with HER?!” Am I to understand that the people playing Antony and Cleopatra took until midway through filming the goddamn movie to find out that they’re playing lovers?! Lifetime, stop making me hate the leads for being the two stupidest actors on earth.
S: People who know things about their surroundings make it so hard to plot stories! It’s much easier when your characters are morons who know nothing and can view everything as a surprising new hurdle.
D: Anyway, in a scene full of awkward, everyone on set gets uncomfortable because Liz & Dick started the sex part of the scene before finishing the dialogue. Liz giggles and they keep going at it in front of the entire studio while the crew mutters about their spouses.
S: Another thing that sounds like something LiLo would do. I think this movie improves drastically if you can judge how believable it is(n’t) by whether the events seem like plausible Lindsay Lohan TMZ headlines, rather than the actual quality of the acting or writing.
D: Meta Lindsay-Liz comparisons: one of the only things this movie got right. And can I just express my love for the fact that Liz’s trailer is bright pink, and she has hired help specifically to prevent spouses from walking in on her still-in-costume trysts with her co-star? #divastatus.
S: LOL at the actors playing these throwaway parts. Once they get past the shame of admitting their first movie role is in this travesty, they can say that their character is essentially an adulterer’s professional wingman. Is this an actual job? Does it pay well? I have student loan bills.
D: Same here, and Liz needed two wingmen, so let’s make some calls. Immediately, the paparazzi arrive to splash their affair across the headlines. Both were married with kids at the time, and she had already split up a marriage to be with her current husband, so she was used to headlines such as the brilliant one the camera cuts to:”LO SCANDALO: TAYLOR AND BURTON.” In an Italian news rag simply entitled ITALIANO. Italiano? Lo scandalo? Reaaaal innovative, Lifetime. And they couldn’t even make it “Taylor e Burton,” just for a modicum of realism?
S: Lifetime’s attention to detail is astounding.
D: Cut to Interview!Liz getting defensive and pretending she isn’t, while Dick tells her what her feelings are about her prior marriages, and she giggles and shuts up. This relationship is sounding more and more like Fifty Shades of Grey every minute.
S: Fifty Shades Light, perhaps. This version of Liz is comparably as spineless and stupid as Ana, but I’m not ready to give full Christian Grey psychopath points to Dick.
D: Fair. Out of nowhere, we cut to Dick’s wife bitchslapping him. “NO MORE LIES,” this batshit crazy Irish lady screams! The paparazzi confront Liz’s husband Eddie with photos of his wife’s scandals, and he coolly brushes it off. But when he gets home and enters a party in his living room, Dick basically immediately says to him, “I’m sleeping with your wife. Yes, it’s been in all the papers, I’m sleeping with Elizabeth.” Eddie: “Liz?” Liz: “Ed.” Democracy Diva, to writers: “I fucking hate you and I can’t believe someone paid you to write these terrible, terrible lines.”
S: This whole scene is awesomely ridiculous. I would be angry if I expected anything more than two hours of unintentionally hilarious moments and more drinking than I could keep up with, but as it is, it’s living down to those glorious expectations.
D: Dick drunkenly calls her the queen of denial in the worst Cleopatra pun EVER OF ALL TIME. With no preamble, Dick screams that Liz has to choose which man she loves, her husband or her recent sex romp douchebag maniac, in the middle of this party, in front of everyone. Needless to say, she chooses the maniac.
S: This bit was a bit more Christian-Grey-esque. Except that Dick should have looked a little more like he was about to murder everyone in the room. Also, Lindsay’s acting includes just the sort of murmurwhispermutter speech required for a film adaptation. I vote LiLo for Anastasia Steele in the FSoG movie.
D: +1 because no one with an actual career should destroy it by joining the cast of FSoG. Liz gets reminded that she’s already on her fourth marriage, and after she says “I love the man. End of story,” we get a commercial break. IS IT REALLY THE END OF THE STORY? Can I stop watching and go to sleep now?! No?
S: I had to rewind and I was disappointed to discover that you are correct. I heard the line as “I love the men, end of story!” and I laughed forever because this is the best line ever. Except it didn’t really happen. What a bummer.
D: Yours was an infinitely better line. Now, a montage of them doing it all over Italy. They want to give the paparazzi a show, but can it be a show with less fake Italian backdrops? It’s embarrassing to think someone paid for this to happen. Now, they go diamond shopping, he tells her to pick anything she likes, and she orgasm-faces when she sees herself in mega-fucking diamonds and emeralds.
S: That is an entirely accurate description of the face she makes. Also, the fake girlish giggling Lindsay-as-Liz does when she’s told she can pick anything is just terrible. I get that Lindsay’s presence in this movie is the only reason most of us are watching, but they could have paid literally anyone half as much and gotten twice the performance.
D: In cartoon Italy, a fake Italian accent manages to make Dick understand the word “suicide.” Dick gets home and gets berated by his relatives for ditching his family for a woman who’s divorced four men before him. His wife survived her suicide attempt; Dick tells this to Liz and says it’s over, and Liz runs away, screaming “I won’t live without you!” Seriously, the dude just dealt with his wife’s suicide. Maybe too soon on the whole “I won’t live” thing, Liz, okay?
S: It’s playground motivations applied to grown-up decisions. “OH, SHE ATTEMPTED SUICIDE? I CAN DO THAT TOO! NEENER NEENER.” It’s fucked up to the point of absurdity.
D: True to her word, Liz chases a bottle of pills with a few chugs of vodka – #3 for drinking problems away, but a first for pills! He tells her not to kill herself, she says she already has. There has been no lead-up whatsoever to any of this, and suddenly she’s cry-dying and he’s physically carrying her straight out of her home and directly into the ER.
S: I know we’re talking about a suicide attempt here, but the abruptness of all of this made it more laughable than sympathetic.
D: I could not agree more. After the break, we find out that Liz will be fine, which we knew. We’re back on the Cleopatra set to film the last scene, and Liz asks the director whether it’s written about the characters or the actors playing them. Way to make it all about you, honey.
S: I like that he’s all, “Of course it’s not about you. Fucking duh.” Sort of. Also, I hadn’t realized until this moment how short the time frame on everything must have been. The zero to crazy in record time thing is also very Fifty Shades.
D: Filming wraps and Liz and Dick both think they need a break from the industry. When Dick says he’s not leaving his wife, Liz tells him, “I don’t loathe you, I hate you.” It’s supposed to be a powerful moment but I’m confused because don’t they mean the same thing? #synonyms
S: Over at Snark Squad, Lor often has to show E. L. James what words mean. For the writers of this movie:
D: THANK YOU. Three months later, in Switzerland, Liz continues in a grand tradition of negligent parents, smoking and drinking her problems away (#4!) and half-heartedly screeching, “I’M BORED! I’M BORED!” and I really, really know how you feel, Liz.
S: What a great way to live as a negligent parent, though! All she has to do is scream “I’m bored!” and her annoying children run away and a team of maids appears. Fucking awesome. Sign me up.
D: She’s been working nonstop since age nine, and doesn’t know how to do nothing, or be a mom, or be a kid, because she never got to be one. Now I’m having the sads because #reallifeLindsaymoment.
S: There’s a lot of that in this movie. One minute I’m laughing about how awful the acting or accents are, and then I’ll hear a line in the bullshit that makes me go all, “Oooh. This is the house America’s celebrity schadenfreude built.” Awkward.
D: To make up for that, Lindsay gets to wear a really fabulous mink coat and headwrap in this next scene, and it’s probably the best thing about the entire movie when she walks up to him in this get-up. It’s the most believable Lindsay-as-Liz moment yet (mostly because she’s not talking.) (S: The not talking is key…)
D: We now see them in front of an incredibly fake-looking castle, where they sit on a wall and nothing else happens and we’ve already cut to the next scene. What was the significance of that castle? IS IT HOGWARTS?! (S: HIS LETTER TOTALLY DOES GET SENT BY AN OWL AFTER ALL!) Mr. Sheffield from The Nanny is the casting director for the next film; he wants Sophia Loren, not Liz. In yet another painful pair of lines, Mr. Sheffield proclaims, “I’m not hiring Elizabeth Taylor” and we immediately cut to him showing her, “Your suite, Ms. Taylor.” SHUT UP, WRITERS, SHUT UP.
Liz & Dick do more sex, interrupted by Dick’s wife’s phone calls. He basically exits Liz’s vagina and leaves to immediately get a divorce because that’s how things happen. Waiting for him, or maybe when she realizes he’s not coming back, Liz drinks her problems for the fifth time, and even though no one is there, she throws a vase at the wall because she can. I would have been able to enjoy the campy stupidity of that moment if it weren’t immediately followed by Interview!Liz saying, “I was so mad at Richard.” YES, WE FIGURED THAT OUT BECAUSE OF THE VASE-THROWING THING.
The next scene that happens is only three seconds long, but it made my boyfriend yell, “That is the BEST THREE SECONDS OF TELEVISION I HAVE EVER SEEN.” Liz takes a ridiculously quick swig of vodka (#6!) and barks at a PA “What are you looking at?!” He runs away immediately after Liz’s mother screams, “OUT!” This scene has nothing to do with anything and if you blink, you’ll miss it, but thank goodness Jezebel got a screen-shot of it:
S: I have nothing to add but a general hearty +1 because it was fucking awesome. I’m glad this moment happened and I can’t wait for the internet to gif it.
D: Get on that, internet. On the set of Mr. Sheffield’s film, Liz and Dick are angry and drinking (#7!), and the crew conveniently tells us that it’s 8 AM in case we weren’t yet aware of the fact that Liz and Dick have drinking problems. Dick calls himself perfect, Liz asks why he didn’t say SHE was perfect, and they have a megalomaniacal back-and-forth that ends in slamming doors.
S: Have you ever seen couple friends fight in front of you about something that makes no sense? Awkwardly sitting there wondering what just happened and why? That’s kind of how this whole movie is, but also this part specifically.
D: We’re treated to a scene where Liz tells a bellhop she’s “shagging Dick senseless” and starts nailing a Van Gogh to the wall of his hotel suite. Dick’s wife finally leaves him, so he and Liz want to celebrate his divorce, but discover no one wants to be seen out with such a scandalous couple. The problem-drinking (#8!) continues, as do the inappropriately detailed conversations about their private life in front of bellhops, journalists, and bewildered restaurant-goers. Even a 21st-century oversharer would be like, okay, kids, let’s lock it up.
S: Either that or film it and put it on the internet.
D: They decide to move to New York, and have an unnatural conversation that explains to the audience that he’s a stage actor and she’s a screen actress and those are different things. Thanks, writers!
Anyway, the Pope called them a danger to the institution of marriage, so crazy religious protestors are here calling her a slut to show that SHIT’S GOTTEN REAL. (Although, I firmly believe that if you haven’t pissed off a religious nutcase, you’re not living life right. (S: Words to live by.)) Pope be damned, they wed, and the marriage scene is probably the most natural, least awkward scene in an otherwise almost impossible-to-sit-through movie. Then we’re treated to a performance of Dick doing the worst Hamlet the world has ever seen – and he brings Liz out from the audience and on to the stage to bow. His costars look appropriately PISSED THE FUCK OFF because no matter how famous the girl you’re sleeping with is, she doesn’t get a goddamn curtain call if she’s not in the show.
S: But being recognized for sleeping with people and otherwise doing nothing is basically what Lindsay Lohan’s life is now.
D: If by “nothing” you mean “loads of cocaine,” then I agree. We’re definitely into double-digits on problem drinking, and then Steve Brady from Sex and the City invites her to join the cast of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I’m sad for Steve’s career. Anyway, Dick loses an Oscar, and Liz jokes that if he wants one so badly, she’ll give him hers. Once again, Liz, #toosoon. Also, low blow.
S: And then she’s all butthurt that he didn’t think that was funny! No shit! I’d be mad at you too! “You didn’t get one, BUT I DID!”
D: Liz & Dick are watching themselves in WAoVW, and Lindsay’s acting falls to a new low when she has to do Liz-acting. Without really raising her voice or actually seeming that angry because there is nothing sensical about the way this film progresses, Liz throws a bottle at Dick’s head. She picks up a tabloid story about how she’s fat now, and these two infinitely self-absorbed people can’t possibly understand why the world would want to see pictures of them looking anything else than radiant and covered in diamonds.
S: Another thought that Lindsay herself has probably had.
D: For sure. Irish dude enter-nounces to Liz, Dick, and the children who are ignored throughout this entire story that they were both nominated for Oscars. Liz is picking a dress in her mind; Dick doesn’t want to attend. They end up not going, and she finds out she wins (and he loses) via the radio. It’s legitimately depressing, but his inadequacy issues are getting old.
S: Word. Also, these scenes with the kids are just weird. The few times they make appearances they’re just props. “Look, we’re like a family! Cute, right?”
D: Some business dude arrives to tell them they’re broke, and to convince Dick to do The Comedians for the money. But no Liz; they want Sophia Loren! But Liz says take me, I’ll cut my rate in half! You know, the same exact conversation we already had in this movie like half an hour ago but it feels like about a hundred fifty years ago.
[I couldn’t resist.]) S: Each time we are reminded of the actual passage of time, which slows and stops without any real rhyme or reason, I’m a little confused. Surely they couldn’t keep having the same. fucking. conversations this close together? Oh, they did? Right. Cool.
D: Liz & Dick and the neglected children decide to live on a yacht, because it’s got a beautiful fake backdrop of Venice behind it! They fight over the photog Liz hired to take beautiful pictures of her – and she actually is working that turban, I might add – and she storms off because that’s the only thing that happens in this entire movie.
S: But, you know, Lindsay did get really good at storming off! Maybe her general failures as an actress have skewed my judgement, but her huffily (drunkenly) storming off moments are some of the most believable. It’s a good thing she does it so often.
D: She really pathetically punches him and asks if her hands are fat and pudgy and then begs him for a diamond and we mercifully land on a commercial break after she exhales, “I need a ring. A big ring.” Writers, you’re tacky and I hate you.
S: I can only assume that they were on a mission to make these characters as unsympathetic as possible. They succeeded. Also:
D: You get me. We’re at an auction, to show the audience how Dick gets Liz a ring the size of a small neglected child.
Liz orders two Bloody Marys and informs Dick “I’ve ordered breakfast.” A helpful reminder to those of us who might have forgotten, over a dozen angry drinking scenes later, that they have drinking problems.
The movie finally tells us that Irish dude IS Dick’s brother! Then we’re in a dark creepy house and someone falls down the stairs into the Basement of Don’t Go In There; doctors tell Liz & Dick the man has broken his spine but I still don’t know who we’re talking about because the house was so dark. Whoever it was (Irish Brother?), it’s making Dick problem-drink more.
S: We have found that The Basement of Don’t Go In There is a truly handy plot device. It can bring all manner of tragedies! It’s a favorite of lazy writers everywhere. I mean, this is probably an actual thing that happened to an actual person, but it still oozes contrivance in the context of this movie.
D: Back on the boat, they’re drunk and fighting over loud parties and books, and all the acting is terrible, but thankfully she locks him in a room and the scene ends. Then she buys him a whole lot of books, and he buys a plane.
S: I found myself wishing Anastasia Steele would watch this movie when she locks him in a room. Either she could get away or he’d kill her when he got free. Either outcome is a win.
D: Liz is turning 40 and her career is feeling its age, but there’s nothing that ages her here any differently than it did in the scenes from ten years before, or in the interviews from much later. We find out Irish Brother is dead, and Dick drinks his guilt. Then he’s holding some biddie’s hand and screaming at Liz to play with her jewelry. Liz throws a glass, a table, and ANOTHER glass when she sees the tabloids about Dick and his new lady. She screams for someone to call Aristotle Onassis and the next second we see a headline about them as the new It Couple. I don’t understand why we’re racing through all of this in a series of five-second scenes packed into the end of the movie, but in an immediately following headline, Liz & Dick are done. Over.
S: There are so many useless moments in this movie that I can’t fathom why they couldn’t have made more time for the demise of their relationship in a film ABOUT THEIR RELATIONSHIP. This is a pretty genuine Big Fucking Deal in their story and it’s handled in about sixty seconds.
D: The structure and pacing are some of the worst things about this movie – almost as bad as the writing. In retrospect, Interview!Liz regrets the limelight, and when she looks right into the camera and laments the life both Liz and Lindsay lived under the spotlight, I swear, I felt something besides snark. Then Lindsay fake-cried and it went away.
Liz is in the hospital without any explanation as to why, and although she thinks she’s fine, she’s told she might have cancer, and this is more than Lindsay Lohan is capable of emoting. Dick comes to see her in the hospital, and the doctor arrives with non-cancerous news, and they decide to get married again with no explanation, rhyme, or reason. We immediately cut to their second wedding for three seconds, just long enough for Dick to pretentiously proclaim the headlines about them – they drink, they fight, they fornicate – and I once again feel the urge to punch these writers in the face.
S: Again, glossing over a BFD in the actual story for no apparent reason. It’s like they actually believe the shit that they wrote up to this point was somehow worthy of our time, and couldn’t stand to part with any of it.
D: Old!Richard lays down on his bed, back on the LAST DAY OF HIS LIFE. And now we see Old!Liz, who looks virtually the same as every other age of Liz, except for the wig.
She hears helicopters and asks her mother what’s going on. And Liz’s mother says, “Richard’s dead,” and Liz promptly falls to the floor. Like, INSTANTLY. I can’t call it fainting or passing out or anything, because she doesn’t even have time to process the news before she fucking drops to the ground. She sends someone out to announce to the papz that she won’t be at the funeral and to back the fuck off. But we see her arriving at his grave and the paparazzi are swarming Liz, clad in diamonds and black. She hiccups and cries and mumbles something I can’t quite catch, and Interview!Liz seems to be talking about Dick as if he’s dead but he’s actually sitting next to her and it doesn’t make sense. And because the end of the movie can’t be expressed by the emotional range of these poor actors and that terrible writing, the screen text tells us, “Elizabeth Taylor kept Richard Burton’s letters for the remainder of her life.”
The end. Seriously. That’s how it ends. WHAT DID I JUST WATCH?!
S: I have been so desensitized to watching/reading things that are bad, that this didn’t merit that question from me, but I do feel a genuine, “WHY DID SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE WATCH THIS MOVIE?” I wish I’d been playing that drinking game this time around, because as great as it looks, there’s no way I will watch it again just to play it. There are far less painful ways to down vodka.
D: Agreed. Thank you for tuning in, dear readers, and leave all your most judgmental feelings in the comments.