THE TELEVISION EVENT OF THE YEAR
"LIZ & DICK" WORLD PREMIERE
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 25 9.8c - LIFETIME
If things had gone well, we would be sitting down to a Barbara Walters interview of Lindsay Lohan on Friday night. The high-drama star canceled a planned tete-a-tete with "20/20," intended to promote the upcoming, eagerly anticipated TV movie, "Liz and Dick."
Instead, viewers will have to wait for the movie. And so the reinvention of this former Disney child star takes another turn.
"Liz and Dick," premiering Saturday on Lifetime, is a glittery festival of great photographs and moving images paying homage to the iconic romance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
No matter what you think of the script (which is a medium-grade made-for-TV movie), the look of the piece carries it. No matter what you think of the actors (Lohan as Taylor, Grant Bowler as Burton), the great period stylings, not to mention "Cleopatra"-period costumes, make this jewel-encrusted, cocktail-soaked, often tragic saga a rip-roaring good time.
Exquisite black-and-white photos re-creating the famously passionate chemistry of Taylor and Burton launch the story. Long before TMZ, popping flashbulbs accompanied their every move.
The film opens in flashback, with voice-over commentary by Burton (Bowler), reading a letter to the woman he loved across a lifetime: "I fell for you the moment I saw you, all those years ago at a party in Hollywood. You were everything I ever wanted even when you looked at me with utter disdain. I thought you were just luscious."
A medley of bad behaviors are re-enacted by the stars, each married to someone else at the time of their 1961 meeting on "Cleopatra." "Arrivederci Eddie," a headline blares as Eddie Fisher is dropped from Liz's life. The entire planet seemed transfixed by their torrid passions.
Sitting for an interview years later, the pair recounted their stormy romance.
"I was the monster who broke up America's sweethearts," she says.
"She's talking about Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds," he explains.
"They know who I'm talking about!"
The film captures their impossible allure. His voice! Her eyes! And their impossible temperaments — the fighting, the making up, the expensive baubles.
"Screw it, they want a show, let's give them a show," she says.
It's a traveling show, as the high-living lovers jet from Europe to Mexico to London and New York, their manager chasing after them to warn that they're broke. The pair married in 1964, divorced in 1974, remarried the following year and ended their second marriage in 1976.
Hollywood history is related through the pair's respective Oscar wins and losses. A clever re-enactment of the 1966 film "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is set against the couple's real-life boozing and bickering.
It's difficult to believe, but the romance was so heated and the publicity so great, the Vatican issued a pronouncement against the couple, accusing them of "erotic vagrancy."
Lohan is stunning (in violet contact lenses) as Liz, if unbelievable when talking about her weight problem. Bowler, a New Zealander, is dashing as the Welshman Burton. They hint at the right chemistry.
Lohan's personal dramas are ongoing gossip fodder but seem small next to the wild and public traumas of Liz and Dick. Contemporary kerfuffles reported in TMZ — reports of confrontations with her fans, a car accident or parole violation in connection with a shoplifting incident — pale in comparison to the superstar Lohan is playing.