It’s being touted as Lindsay Lohan’s big comeback, but, judging from some vicious early reviews, “Liz & Dick” will get no place in the sun.
Lohan stars as Elizabeth Taylor in the Lifetime TV movie, which centers on the glamorous icon’s two-decade relationship with Richard Burton, played by Grant Bowler. The movie premieres on Nov. 25, but some news outlets have already posted early reviews, with expectedly unkind results. In a downright vitriolic thrashing, the Hollwood Reporter’s Tim Goodman likened Lohan’s performance to one in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, calling the movie “an instant classic of unintentional hilarity.”
“Drinking games were made for movies like this,” Goodman added.
Over at the New York Daily News, David Hinckley’s Lohan pan was a bit more tactful. “[Taylor] could make men melt,” he wrote. “Lindsay Lohan’s Taylor does not.”
The critical flogging now being unleashed upon “Liz & Dick” raises an important question: Couldn’t Lifetime see this coming? After all, while the network has taken great pains to promote “Liz & Dick” as the movie that will finally convince the world that Lohan has talent, one only needs look at side-by-side photos of Lohan next to her real-life counterpart -- an icon of Hollywood’s idyllic Golden Era -- to see just how much contrast there is between the two.
The first photos of Lindsay as Liz were leaked back in June to a flood of online derision, and virtually every slideshow posted since then, such as this one at Vulture, has attracted a stream of similarly dismissive user comments: “She looks nothing like Liz!” they balk.
And yet the criticism of Lifetime’s eminent casting fail is not just about resemblance. Indeed, movie biographies often excel in absence of actors who look like the people they play: Exhibit A -- Frank Langella as Richard Nixon. But such films require something that “Liz & Dick” doesn’t have: a lead actor who knows how to act. Nothing in Lohan’s body of work suggests that she has the chops to pull off one of the most glamorous screen actors in movie history. Her most critically acclaimed movie to date was “Mean Girls,” an excellently written comedy in which little hinged on her performance.
Admittedly, the concept of Lindsay as Liz may have appeared commercially viable in the abstract. Lohan, a convicted, terminally troubled actress, is just the sort of train wreck whose career is poised for a comeback. Scoff as we might (and TMZ does), Hollywood would love nothing more than to pick her up, dust her off, and herald her redemption. Consider, for argument’s sake, the upward trajectory of Robert Downey Jr.’s career since he was found passed out drunk in a stranger’s house in the 1990s. People forgave and forgot, and Downey went on to become “Iron Man.”
And say what you will about Lohan. She makes headlines wherever she goes. Certainly, the notion of having a chronic news-maker at the center of one of its movie “events” was an enticing one for Lifetime, which is coming off the record-setting ratings of its “Steel Magnolias” remake last month. But again, judging from early reviews, “Liz & Dick” will have little chance of breaking that record anew, and so the mystery of Lifetime’s head-scratching casting choice remains.
Lindsay, consensus agrees, is not Liz.
It’s no small irony that Lifetime’s corporate parent, the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), gave Lindsay Lohan her first big break. It was back in 1998, when Lohan was 11, that she starred in Disney’s remake of “The Parent Trap,” a movie that set her life on the surreal path of child stardom only to have it devolve into the even more surreal bowels of tabloid kabuki. Come to think of it, maybe that’s precisely the reason Lifetime felt obligated to give Lohan this shot. Maybe someone at Disney just feels guilty.
That would explain a lot.