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.
© Michael B. Druxman