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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
They couldn't be together but they couldn't be apartOct. 17 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
The DVD of this BBC film for television is yet to be released in the US so the first introduction to what is actually a very fine film was presented to the American audience in piece meal fashion on the BBC network: 7 minutes of story then 4 minutes of commercials then 7 more minutes of story, etc - for 2 hours. It grows wearisome to see two character studies so well sculpted cut up into a puzzle by commercialism's greed. The uninterrupted DVD should correct that flaw and will likely be a stunning experience. Richard Laxton directs a screenplay by William Ivory (no, not THAT Ivory family...), but the kudos for the success of this film go to Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West who manage to reincarnate Li and Dick with consummate skill.
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. After a two-month run, with a projected tour, the curtain comes down and Taylor tells Burton she has always loved him and still does. Richard and Elizabeth go their separate ways, but they did sort out their differences and remain friends, and apparently they only communicated by telephone and letter, until his death in 1984. Taylor died in 2011.
The supporting cast, especially Lenora Crichlow as Liz' dresser Chen Sam and Stanley Townsend as the play's director Milton Katselas, is strong for the small amount of time they are on screen. The spectacle is the obsessive relationship between two very strong characters and fortunately both actors give excellent impersonations and recreations. We are allowed to see and understand their differences and frustrations. Grady Harp, October 13
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Yet another stunning performance from HelenaMarch 3 2014
Deborah A. Cardile
- Published on Amazon.com
I am a huge fan of Helena, so when I heard about this, I was super excited. I watched it when it first aired on bbc, and u fell in love with this couple. Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter put on an amazing and very convincing performance of one of Hollywood's most talked about couples. If you want to see a movie about Burton and Taylor, this is for you! And if you're a fan of Helena, this is also for you! And if you're looking for a good movie to watch, this is also for you! ;P
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Moving and InsightfulFeb. 5 2014
Michael B. Druxman
- Published on Amazon.com
BURTON AND TAYLOR surprised me.
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.
I came to this telemovie with some high expectations. I had read some very positive reviews and it seemed like it was a good cast. But, after watching most of it I felt cheated, because it was not at all what was described.
It is set in 1983, when Burton and Taylor come together to play in a reviival of Coward's "Private Lives" on Broadway. It is not a bad idea to use the concept of a previously divorced couple in real life coming together to play a previously divorced couple on stage, who find they are still in love with each other.
But, there is a lot to do between the idea and the execution.
For a start, as good an actor as he is Dominic West is not Rchard Burton. He does not have Burton's rich and complex Welsh voice, which by this time in Burton's life had been hugely affected by cigarettes and booze, just a year or so before he died in his mid fifties. Yet, this Burton, as played by West is an Oxbridge educated proclaiming like Olivier, with some fondness for smokes, but largely abstemious.
So as to contrast with the hard drinking and pill popping Elizabeth. Bonham Carter does this role well. Taylor is portrayed as a kind of monster, who contrives the whole enterprise to get Richard back.
Having set up this premise and the useful conceit of the play within the play, the writer and director seem to have found nowhere else to go but into a series of increasingly melodramatic and soap operaish vignettes of bickering between Taylor and Burton. This was supposed to have been one of the great love stories of the 20th century, but as a viewer we get no insight into why these bitter and disenchanted peole found love with each other. As the movie progressed these scenes, for me, became increasingly tiresome, to the point that I turned the movie off in the last 15 minutes.
Perhaps I missed a big reveal. I think not.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
George and Martha meet West and Carter. You have so much in common...Oct. 12 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
The only thing that would stand between most good actors taking on these roles would be enough self knowledge to know they lacked the necessary skills or the risk of being found guilty of killing another good actor who tried for the role.
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. She is like a her sometimes co-star Johnny Depp, an actor perhaps embarrassed by good looks or gifts or luck who either hides under a bushel or only emerges made up with warts, scars, bits of straw and dreck, tattered clothes and a hump.
Here she forgoes any super-sexy padding that would make her close to the Taylor of my golden memories. She captures Liz at 50, as "Pudge" Burton's kick name for her as "Pocks" was hers for him.
She achieves as does West a characterization pitch perfect. His and her genius is they don't go for imitation, they inhabit a reality. Both nail their characters on their strength of how they move or angle of their heads to recapture T&B. Anyway you look at them, they are impressive.
The saying goes that Brits generally use skill and talent to best American actors whose strength supposedly lies in magical believability. This distinction is both true and important as you will see. It is also stood on its head as more generalizations should be.
Carter is a Brit who plays an American who is supposed in some way to be lacking British acting chops. This is wonderfully confusing to think about but the movie skims over it to keep the focus on love.
I raise subjects of talent, skill, and magic since it is appears to be something that actor Burton loved most about actor Taylor and she, him.
That is at the heart of this movie. Both as actors and people, they are completely different--in acting style, intelligence, gifts, and demons. Both love each other beyond measure and in that seem to far surpass the distorted image we have of them.
Our standard image sadly misses the wonder and perhaps the reality of what they felt for each other. My "perhaps" is a my hand dropping when it comes to pointing at exactly what this movie achieves brilliantly. With a shaky finger I might point towards they were each other's addictions...but....
What brings these excellent performances together is an extraordinarily intelligent script. We have been numbed with silly movies about movie stars that only rarely might hit the mark in an offhand way but too often push us into sitting through exploitation.
Two exceptions are Ashley Judd's impressive and gutsy work in Norma Jean & Marilyn which was thoughtful but still pulled down by a weak script and My Week with Marilyn, which in its excellence can be compared to anything else regularly placed before us to establish my generalization.
Burton and Taylor captures the characters and gives us different insight into what they might have been like. My guess is that if the real B&T saw this movie they would nod that it wasn't far off the mark. Or at least be smart enough to act so.
Each might have been a monster (she more than he, maybe) but then so might we all. While we all might want a spotlight we would probably fall beneath its weight. Great performers endure. T and B did and I hope Carter and West will as well.
(Under no circumstance should you view the preview for this movie: it is awful and so edited to make a finely tuned drama appear over-the-top, blousey, and especially off-putting ...in the extreme. In a world where such previews exist...we'd be better off looking at animals painted on cave walls lit by firelight.)