I’m going to assume that the success of “BUtterfield 8” was largely dependent on when it was released, at a time when the sexual revolution was beginning. To put it bluntly, Elizabeth Taylor plays the town slut, who will openly have sex with any willing man yet refuses to be paid for this service or treated like a hooker or call girl, as she ends up dating a self-loathing married man (Laurence Harvey) and the two pick each other up as they fall more and more in love.
I say it’s a product of its time because this was when women realized they didn’t have to be the quiet housewives and were free to explore themselves just as much as men could. Nowadays, Taylor’s performance would probably be analyzed as a byproduct of men ruining an innocent, fragile girls life to become another sex symbol, while others might see Taylor’s performance as trashy and overly glorified. Even if Taylor does carry some superiority throughout the movie, it hardly ever seems justified.
I could not get into the spirit of “BUtterfield 8,” as it psycho-analyzes everything more than your standard Chris Nolan movie, all while every character talks like they have multiple degrees in psychology. Then the film bounces back and forth between praising Taylor’s life choices and demonizing it, especially with a long opening sequence of Taylor in a flimsy nightie parading around the apartment of her latest conquest.
Suffice to say, “BUtterfield 8” has not aged well. Taylor turns in a captivating performance as always and there’s no denying her alluring appeal, especially since nearly every one of her lines is oozing with desire, but this gets uncomfortable after a while. I can see women in the 1960s loving the freedom Taylor offers, while men love looking at her. But now that we’re in an age of sexual revelation and re-evaluation, as well as the “Me Too” movement, the atmosphere of this movie has certainly soured.
Final Grade: C-