I browse the sales bins at video stores and places like Big Lots for movies that are marked down. Half my dvd collection is purchased this way and I have a great collection. So, I was happy this time last week when while looking for a research movie that I knew the video store had on sale for 3 dollars, I also stumbled across this gem, Burton and Taylor. Since it was done by the BBC, I never got to watch it – even though I had wanted to view it – so I snatched it up.
This is a really solid movie. The script and the directing are really fine but what makes this a top-notch production is the actors doing their homework. Thirty seconds into the movie, (it may not even have been that long) you realize that the actors have the physicality of their subjects and the voices down pat. They become Burton and Taylor and if you ever have seen Burton and Taylor on screen then you know exactly how hard that is.
Richard Burton with his distinctive voice, hard drinking, and chain smoking, is played by Dominic West. The starlet Elizabeth Taylor who grew up as a Hollywood prodigy is brilliantly done by Helena Bonham Carter whose resume gives you goose bumps. I can’t stress enough how much these two immersed themselves in the roles and how that raised the standard of the film.
Voices are a tricky decision because you can put in a stellar performance, skip nailing the voice down, and people will still like the movie but if you go for the voice and do it wrong, it sticks out and that is what everyone will nail you for. No fear of that here, as I said, you feel like you are listening to Burton and Taylor have a conversation.
The movie centers around the time that Burton and Taylor did the play, Private Lives, together. It was a ploy for Taylor to engineer marriage number three – or was it four? – to each other and you get a glimpse of two people so addicted to their love that it nearly destroyed them time and time again.
I’m a big Richard Burton fan. His movies are great but he was legend on the stage. I read a bio of him once and it talked about how he’d get bored on stage or at parties and start to recite his lines or a play like Hamlet backwards. He also taught himself to speak seven languages and was an avid reader. I wish I had gotten to see him on stage. I would’ve loved that. While his Marc Antony in Cleopatra is legendary (as is the first time he romanced Taylor while making the film) I would have to recommend two other films of his to check out: Night Of The Iguana and Beckett. Both roles earned him Oscar nods.
I like Taylor but for me the role of hers that stands out is her portrayal of Maggie The Cat in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Maybe it should be no surprise that all three films are based on plays. I should toss in that one move they did together, not their best, but I always enjoyed The V.I.P.’s.
I payed two dollars for this film and it was a steal. It is a very well done look into the lives of Burton and Taylor so if you want to see how love has the power to destroy if you let it or if you are just a film buff wanting to learn more about these two stars, I encourage you to check this movie out. This is definitely worth the purchase or rental price.