Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor are screen icons of apparently imperishable importance and fascination, and so the screen keeps coming back to them, making Elizabeth Taylor the only person in history (so far, but we imagine it will stay this way) to be portrayed by both Lindsay Lohan and Helena Bonham-Carter. Lohan's “Liz & Dick” has thankfully come and gone, but behold, a clip from the BBC's upcoming “Burton & Taylor,” following on from the recenttrailer.
The 90-minute film will show on the BBC later this year, and presumably make its way across the Atlantic in the next, focusing on a period in the later lives of the stormy, half-pickled couple as they attempted a return to the stage in a production of Noel Coward's “Private Lives,” while also trying to keep their very own private lives stable and together. In this clip, Burton (Dominic West) puts in an appearance at his co-star's 50th birthday party: a woman who he had by that time married and divorced twice over. Liz (Helena Bonham-Carter), perhaps understandably, seems to be working quite hard to keep her mind off it.
Look, I'm British and I love the BBC and I love Dominic West, and on her best days I love Bonham-Carter too (and it's really nice to see her continuing to work for people other than her husband, Tim Burton). But this does not look good. It looks terrible. It looks Lohan-league. Even these two minutes are full of weird, graceless grace notes about mink and neck injuries and God knows what, and lines like “I wanna get drunk and dance a lot,” and people stumbling around to indicate Alcohol Problems. It looks trashy as all get out, without quite knowing it, which is worse.
And yet, so were Burton and Taylor, right? Everything about them was a mess of class and trash that entranced the world for decades, and indeed still does. So maybe this is the way to do it. Maybe this will be an enthralling faceplant, a camp insta-classic that will somehow be the best tribute of all to Burton and Taylor. Maybe.