Burton and Taylor

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Burton and Taylor Movie Poster Image
Moving biopic digs into past tabloid staples, drinking, sex.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 83 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Twice-married and -divorced, Burton and Taylor still clearly care for each other, which sends a clear message about longterm, realistic adult friendship. This message is counteracted by their destructive habits and behavior.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Burton and Taylor are iconic movie stars, famous more for their relationships and their destructive habits than most else. They drink, smoke, and cheat on their partners.  

Violence

At one point, Burton and Taylor have an emotional slap fight -- she hits him twice, he threatens her but does not hit her back. 

Sex

Many double entendres and discussions of sex -- at one point Burton and Taylor have illicit sex while Burton is engaged to someone else. Some sexual talk: references to Taylor's "t-ts." 

Language

Some language throughout including "f--k" and one "c--t." Many British curses: "bloody" and "bugger."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many characters drink onscreen and act drunk. Taylor makes references to using pills for a medical condition, but slurs her words and acts high. Burton smokes nearly constantly onscreen. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Burton and Taylor is a drama about real-life actors and on-and-off mates Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who drink, smoke, and take pills and act intoxicated. The actors discuss past sexual rendezvous, body parts, and eventually cheat on their unknowing partners. At one point, they engage in a physical fight; Taylor hits Burton several times in the face and he threatens to hit her back. Expect a few strong words ("f--k" and "c--t"), along with some sexual language.

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What's the story?

Elizabeth Taylor (Helena Bonham Carter) and Richard Burton (Dominic West) had been divorced (for the second time!) for seven years when both agreed to do a revival of a Noel Coward play. The press and public hoped to get a glimpse into the famous private lives of these two controversial stars; Taylor and Burton just wanted to inject some drama into their fading careers and get through the whole experience without any personal drama. But it was not to be. The stars meet, fight, reconcile, break up, and work together as we watch BURTON AND TAYLOR, a sensitive portrayal of the final months of a great romance.

Is it any good?

This is a sweet, sad, wistful and realistic look at a long-term romance and the two dysfunctional people in it. The first alert that Burton and Taylor is not of the "ripped from the headlines" variety of biopic comes a short way into the picture, when Bonham-as-Taylor and West-as-Burton share a tense moment, followed by a tender reminiscence from years past. It's a very real moment between what seems like people who have known each other for a long time, who have loved and fought and given up, but not on each other.

Bonham Carter's Taylor has the mannered speech and throaty cackle of the real article, ensuring that for once, Taylor's depiction isn't mainly about period-correct eyeliner and scarves. There's real chemistry with Dominc West as well. The viewer winds up rooting for them to go ahead and get married a third time...until the movie ends, and the gut-punching coda arrives: Richard Burton died just a few months after the time period shown in the film. And Taylor talked to him on the phone the day of his death.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the real-life press furor caused by the romance between Burton and Taylor. Why was their romance so controversial and of such interest to tabloids? How many times did they marry and why? 

  • Watch another take on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, such as the television movie Liz & Dick. How are the two takes different? How are they the same? Which one do you prefer? 

  • Compare historical pictures of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to images of the actors in Burton and Taylor. Do the Burton and Taylor actors look exactly like the people they are playing? Does it matter? 

Movie details

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