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Liz & Dick

Year: 2012
Production Co: Silver Screen Pictures
Studio: Lifetime Television
Director: Lloyd Kramer
Writer: Christopher Monger
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Grant Bowler, Theresa Russell

In a vacuum, this movie would have been appreciated for what it was, an imaginative enough but not particularly outstanding biopic of a stormy Hollywood love affair.

Unfortunately – like few other filmed fiction projects – too much behind the production distracts from it. The US cable channel Lifetime undoubtedly put itself on a much higher rung on the ladder of TV power simply because of the star and her train-wreck tabloid lifestyle (arrested for assault just days after it aired).

Lohan is the very crucible of modern celebrity media, a megawatt spotlight trained on every misbehaviour or character flaw (while any question of talent or whether the fame is deserved or justifiable is burned away in the glare). One commentator after another was lined up to denounce her performance simply because of the object of derision she's become in American culture, while in truth she was no better or worse than 90 percent of actors working in films and TV in the world today.

Like Leonardo DiCaprio, Lohan can't help but look too young for anything she's in, and she hasn't the gravity, maturity or chops to play a much older Liz Taylor. As Richard Burton, Grant Bowler is much better at wrangling the sense of the power and heft of a middle aged man.

The plot is basically a crib sheet of the tumultuous love affair between Burton and Taylor, meeting on the set of Cleopatra and desiring each other as quickly as they rub each other the wrong way through various arrogance and stand-offishness.

But before long they end up in bed, scandalising the Hollywood establishment as the newly established paparazzi press luridly reports their every movement even while they're still married to other people.

But getting together and breaking free of old commitments doesn't lead to any kind of peace for either. Aside from their constant fighting, professional jealousy and insecurity plagues them both – Taylor worried she's seen as a ridiculous hack by her peers, Burton's massive ego sick with jealousy when it's Taylor who keeps winning Oscars while he considers himself the greatest actor who ever lived.

Historical turning points in the couples' lives from their money problems to their two marriages are checked off more than explored, but there weren't many other directions to go with the running time.

And in amongst it all are Liz and Dick in their young guises, seated in a studio on directors' chairs, dressed completely in black and reminiscing about their lives together as if they're sitting in heaven. While most of the material is fairly plot driven without much emotional heft, the device gives it enough spirit to keep you interested.

Don't watch it to see Lohan fall on her sword yet again – she'll oblige you sooner or later outside some nightclub. See it to get a rough layout of an interesting episode in Hollywood history.

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