If President Obama can pardon a Thanksgiving turkey he barely knew, surely we can find it in our hearts to forgive Lindsay Lohan for... well, for being Lindsay Lohan.
Instead of us properly preparing ourselves in advance (I'm picturing Robert Shaw in Jaws, resolutely strapping himself into the deck chair) for the debacle that "Liz and Dick" was certain to be, we pretended that this nakedly commercial made-for-TV venture actually had a chance to succeed artistically. And that make-believe conceit was utterly unfair to Lindsay Lohan.
Let's be honest. We had to know that she didn't have the whiskers, the chops, the gravitas, the....whatever you want to call it, to play Liz Taylor How on earth could we not know that? By all accounts, Liz Taylor, even as a young woman, was a monument to Hollywood toughness and savvy. She was ballsy, she was intuitive, she was a larger-than-life force of nature.
Ribald and funny, gorgeous and charismatic, Liz Taylor was not only a gifted actress, she was a genuine mensch who endeared herself to movie production crews (the electricians, carpenters, drivers, prop guys) by knowing their first names, regularly chatting with them, happily trading raunchy jokes, and being able to drink every one of them under the table.
Asking a fragile, freckled little bird like Lindsay (even with her alleged fondness for alcohol) to portray Taylor would be like asking Justin Bieber to play the lead in "Young Albert Einstein." Right out of the chute, the people who put this movie together had to know it was a staggering mismatch. Arguably, they were banking on Lohan's notoriety to draw an audience.
Still, instead of trashing Lohan for her cringe-inducing performance (I'm picturing Robert Shaw dragging his fingernails down that chalkboard), she should be given credit for being willing to accept the challenge. Even with her agent, her acting coach, her producer, and her personal posse all pumping her full of faux-confidence, it was Lindsay herself who had to go out there and deliver the goods. Alas, she failed. So be it.
But even though she is temporarily down, she is far from being counted out. I like to think I've come up with a sure-fire way for Lindsay to make her comeback. Here is a 10-step program.
1. Until further notice, abandon all thoughts of being a "leading lady."
2. Do not accept an offer to play Madame Curie, Joan of Arc or Mother Teresa.
3. Think of yourself as an ensemble actress, a "character actress," if you will.
4. Do not accept any offer to host your own talk show.
5. Do not accept any offer to appear as a guest on a talk show.
6. Seek out scripts where you play the enigmatic next-door neighbor, the clueless high school guidance counselor, or the troubled single mom.
7. Convince the insurance companies you're worth the risk by stringing together half a dozen solid, unspectacular, but no-hassle performances.
8. Angle your way into a Woody Allen movie.
9. Attend driving school.
10. Patch up any hard feelings you may have created (I'm picturing Robert Shaw graciously showing his scars to Richard Dreyfuss).
David Macaray, an LA playwright and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor," 2nd Edition), was a former labor union rep.