Although I occasionally laughed out of pure incredulity at how bad Lohan was, I don’t really agree with early reviews of the film which propose drinking games and suggest it’s “so bad it’s good.” Obviously these critics have not watched many Lifetime movies. The Hollywood Reporter declared it “an instant classic of unintentional hilarity,” which Lifetime shortened to “an instant classic” for a TV spot. I agree with neither Lifetime nor THR. I mostly agree with The San Francisco Chronicle‘s opinion that “it’s so terrible, you’ll need to ice your face when it’s over to ease the pain of wincing for two hours.” It’s bad, but not “so bad it’s good,” which is pretty low, even for Lifetime.
I spent most of the movie feeling bad for Grant Bowler and the supporting actors, who give the roles their all. Bowler does an excellent imitation of Burton, and he’s believable in the role. Tanya Franks, who plays Sybil, Burton’s wife when he met Taylor, is so good compared to Lohan that she seems to have wandered off the set of a legitimately good film. It’s obvious that Lifetime knew Lohan would be a train wreck and would therefore attract a lot of ratings (right?!), so why didn’t they just go in that direction with the rest of the cast?
Everyone else involved with this film seems to have put forth only slightly more effort than Lohan. Bowler’s wig looks like it’s about to reveal a pair of eyes and peer at you. The music is just borrowed from other Lifetime movies. They also couldn’t even put any effort into Burton addressing a letter to Taylor. He writes “Elizabeth Taylor, Bel Air” on the envelope and asks that it be sent. Is that like writing “Santa Claus, North Pole” on your Christmas wish list? It just gets there through magic? Even though there are mentions of Taylor’s weight gain, there’s no attempt to make Lohan look any plumper than she does at the start of the film. And 1980s Taylor is just Lohan with a bad wig and shoulder pads. Don’t even get me started on the fact that she didn’t age at all throughout the movie. There’s not even a hint of an attempt that they cared enough to do that.
And forget about the script. In addition to the melodramatic dialogue (As Burton’s brother [David Hunt] says to him, “What kind of poetic bollocks is that?!”), there is absolutely no story whatsoever. The film is basically the same one-minute scene over and over. Elizabeth and Richard hate each other, then love each other, then drown their sorrows in alcohol, and on and on. It’s as if there were a checklist of events to cover, and the screenwriter (Christopher Monger) stuffed them into a 90-minute film with no attempt to create an interesting plot. The film reads like a repetitive timeline of events, as if it was made as a class project.
There is also no effort to give Burton and Taylor any sort of complexity or redeeming qualities. They’re portrayed as irresponsible, selfish, unstable caricatures.
In short, I think Lindsay Lohan broke Lifetime.