Burton and Taylor
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Elizabeth Taylor (Helena Bonham Carter) invites her ex-husband - twice married, twice divorced in one of the last century's most tempestuous and media focused couplings - Richard Burton (Dominic West) to her fiftieth birthday party where, as a recovering alcoholic, he refuses to get drunk with her. She obviously still retains her obsession and passion for him and suggests that they star in a stage revival of Noël Coward's play Private Lives that Liz is to produce. The agreement and announcement causes gossip with the press who speculate a possible romantic reconciliation. With a new girlfriend and the prospect of playing King Lear, Burton is not happy with the project, especially with Taylor's pill-popping and her lack of stage experience, which causes problems at rehearsals: Taylor has not even read the play before day 1 of the rehearsals. The play opens to a critical trashing but is extremely popular with audiences because they want to see Liz Taylor and, when she is ill, numbers dwindle and the show is put on hold.Read more ›
Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting this TV movie from BBC Home Entertainment to be very good, since few films about show business figures are, but this one was quite moving and insightful.
The film is set in the 1980s, after legendary stars Elizabeth Taylor (Helena Bonham Carter) and Richard Burton (Dominic West) have divorced each other for the second time. Both are alcoholics, though Burton is sincerely attempting to stay “on the wagon”.
Elizabeth decides to co-produce a limited run (10 weeks) production of Noel Coward’s classic comedy, PRIVATE LIVES, on Broadway to co-star her and Richard. He agrees, in part, because the run will result in a terrific payday and, since he continues to live like “royalty,” he can probably use the money. Also, though both he and Elizabeth are currently romantically involved with others, they still have a strong, albeit unhealthy, attraction toward each other.
Working together in the theatre is a near disaster for the duo. Richard, the consummate professional, is appalled by his former wife’s lack of professionalism. Indeed, she had never even read PRIVATE LIVES prior to the first rehearsal. Sparks do fly, as Elizabeth tries to woo Richard back into her private life.
Though they really look nothing like the icons they are portraying both actors brilliantly capture the essence of the two stars, delivering impeccable performances. The screenplay by William Ivory and Richard Laxton’s direction are first-rate.
The DVD from BBC Home Entertainment contains two “behind the scenes” featurettes.
© Michael B. Druxman
I have found Carter mesmerizing from when I first saw her in A Room with a View. There she was a Pre-Raphaelite ideal who was entrancing and an entirely believable actress who would accept the artistic need to reveal herself full frontal in one of the most despairing and tragic embraces in film.
Later I saw her play a woman crippled by an illness but capturing a sense of pain that far surpassed the physical. Much later still, she took on a wickedly funny role in Fight Club. As a New York low life she surpassed Hoffman in Cowboy as easily as she gave a nip or more at the heels to Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot.
She is an actress without flaw and a woman only lacking in not knowing most men who would happily drink her bath water.
Dominic West is another of those English actors who make our home grown actors' jaws drop. He buries himself in a role so deeply that he generally escapes notice as an actor but registers as a character and because no part before this gave him a decent star turn in a sense he has gone unnoticed.
While kept busy he has been underused which might be worse than under appreciated, although neither is merited.
In B&T what's odd is West finally got a part that might gain notice after years of trying and Carter emerged from what seems years of hiding.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Neither star looks like the person they portray, but Bonham Carter really gets into Taylor's skin. She's part sex kitten, part brat. Read morePublished 4 months ago by J. Gentile
Those of us of a certain age quite naturally followed the Taylor/Burton happenings. Even if you didn't buy the romance/gossip mags, something was blasted out at us re the TV News... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Shang
Dominic West is a wonderful acter and does Richard Burton amazingly. I like everything he is in...Helena Bonham Carter does a good job as Elizabeth Taylor. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Judy Specht
Amazing quality GREAT SELLER!!! Fast shipping. At a great price. This movie is a different angle of the Richard Burton Elizabeth Taylor story.Published 10 months ago by Ashton Hirt
A bit confusing as to the timeframe of their relationship. I think they has past their second marriage, it contradicts much of the lifetime movie. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Sara
Very good memory of Elizabeth in her life but it was very terrible of the part of the movie. Because Elizabeth had black dot on her right near her mouth but the movie the character... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Donald James Pilling
Elizabeth of the violet eyes & Richard w/a voice born to the stage will forever be the king & queen of Hollywood. Alive loving/fighting or dead in their graves... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Kandy Langford