Bernardo Bertolucci (l) and Liv Tyler on the set of Stealing Beauty.
A promising young luminary beading together a string of pearly performances will gain my loyalty more effectively than yanking a thorn from my paw. After Little Murders and Elliott Gould’s first two pictures for Altman (M-A-S-H and The Long Goodbye), I was in it for the long haul. After endless reels of screen-filling fluff (S*PYS, W.H.I.F.F.S., Matilda, The Devil and Max Devlin ), it soon became apparent that the script had not been written that Elliott Gould could turn down.
Something about Liv Tyler courted a similar allegiance. God dressed her with strength and beauty. In addition, she smokes, has no tattoos, and the camera worships her smile, so broad and inviting even the widest Panavision lens can’t contain it. And she can act! With a little training, lovely Liv could have been the next Audrey Hepburn. What happened?
Rings got in the way.
Tyler bailed on modeling at age 14 and before turning sweet 16 had embarked on a career as an actress. After making her screen debut opposite Richard Dreyfuss in Silent Fall, Liv dove headfirst into a trio of indie attention-getters starting with Heavy and Empire Records and capped by the all-American girl traveling to Italy to lose her virginity in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty.
For years I operated under the assumption that anything featuring Liv Tyler was worth seeing. She took a U-turn at Armageddon and while her pimply choice of subsequent projects may have made her a household name, it kept me from two-and-three-quarters of her films. Thirty minutes of LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring was enough. Thanks to this series, the title of Best Picture Completest will forever elude me.
(Here’s an amusing side note about my half-hour spent in the shadow of Peter Jackson’s Lord. I met a woman while strolling the gallery at MoPA and asked if she wanted to join me for a movie. By this time, I had successfully passed on every opportunity — and there were many — to see LOTR. In her eyes, it was Rings or nothing.
There’s no such thing as a bad genre, but if there were, sword-and-sorcery epics would by #2 in line, right behind slasher films. Even the big Gaslamp couldn’t contain me. After 30 minutes I turned and whispered, “Are you enjoying this?” She was. The thought of two more hours of this dreck was too much to bear. I offered my apologies and told my date that I’d be outside waiting for her when the movie ended. Fourteen screens and nothing else to choose from, so I whiled away the next 120 minutes in the Horton Plaza parking lot listening to the radio. Needless to say, it was our first and only rendezvous.)
Far be it from me to begrudge Liv’s work in the highly successful trilogy. If someone hands you a stack of dough to prance before a green screen, by all means accept! The franchise probably endowed her with enough “F.U.” money that she never has to work again. When the cycle drew to an Oscar-winning end, Tyler turned to Kevin Smith and Adam Sandler as a means of continuing exposure.
Liv hasn’t given us anything to look at since her two pictures for Altman (Cookie’s Fortune, Dr. T and the Women). That was 16 years ago. The statute of limitations has long since run out. Picking up Jamie Lee Curtis’s rejects was not the answer. The Strangers found her spending 90 minutes being systematically brutalized and degraded at the hands of three masked assailants whose motivation was simply, “Because you were home.” First the fairies, then the masked slashers. Should I take it personally?
Robot and Frank was the last Liv Tyler picture to play San Diego. (Space Station 76 and Jamie Marks Is Dead both bypassed theatres.) A monster movie called The Wilding is currently in post production.
It’s not too late to stage a comeback. You’re a good mommy, and the studio will surely provide quality daycare for your son, Milo. Just no more of this Hulk shit or eeny-meeny-miney-moe project selection. We miss you, Liv. Come back to us.