Lizzie Borden had an axe
She gave her mother 40 whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41
Do you remember that rhyme from childhood? I watched a screener of the new movie, Lizzie, courtesy of Roadside Attractions, at home. When the movie began, one of my friends whom I was watching it with was able to recite the poem without even having to think about it.
Andrew and Abby Borden, Lizzie’s father (Jamey Sheridan, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Homeland) and stepmother (Fiona Shaw, Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter movies), were in fact brutally killed on a hot August day at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, but did Lizzie Borden kill them?
The movie Lizzie, starring Oscar nominee Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry) in the title role, and Kristen Stewart as one of the maids living in the house, Bridget Sullivan, sets out to explain the murders and what led up to them.
The director of the film, Craig William Macneil, has a history of making films based on crazy people. His 2015 movie The Boy was an intimate portrait of a 9-year-old sociopath’s growing fascination with death. His first film, 2009’s The Afterlight, tells the story of a young couple who move into an old schoolhouse on a desolate stretch of farm country. Hoping for a new beginning, their lives are instead drawn toward dark and unforeseen ends.
In this film, Lizzie (Sevigny) and Bridget (Stewart) sort of fall in love with each other. But when Lizzie catches wind that her father is raping Bridget almost every night up in the attic where she sleeps, Lizzie is set off.
She thinks of ways to get back at her father. She feigns a robbery, but that backfires and upon finding out, her father kills all of Lizzie’s pet pigeons, turning them into the family meal andforcing Lizzie to eat one at dinner.
She breaks a mirror, planting the broken glass in front of Bridget’s room, so that upon exiting the room her father will cut his feet.
Then, one afternoon in the barn, Lizzie and Bridget realize that they are in lust with each other and while engaging in an act of pleasuring each other, Lizzie’s father peeks through a window and sees what’s happening.
That night, he forbids Lizzie to speak to Bridget, save for any necessary work related matters around the house. You see, Lizzie had taught the illiterate Irish girl Bridget to read, and gain her self confidence.
Throw in an evil uncle, daddy Borden’s brother (Denis O’Hare) and you have a complete cast of lunatics.
In the hands of a more accomplished director, the movie may have been captivating or interesting. Even though the acting is impeccable all around, yes, Kristen Stewart’s too, (she is usually dreadful), the movie is tedious. It starts off painfully slow, takes forever to get where it wants to go and once there really doesn’t grab you.
Of course, both Sevigny and Stewart go topless and show their rear ends, because the best way to murder someone is to not have blood splatter end up on your clothes. If you murder someone in the nude, you can jump in a bath and wash the blood off.
The fact of the matter is, the script is so bad and the direction is even worse, even though you know Lizzie gets off, because it is a true story, you couldn’t care less if she had been convicted and was sentenced to hang.
Even worse than the direction and script is the film’s original score by Jeff Russo. It is so awful that it makes you want to gouge your eyes out. That’s surprising, because Russo is an accomplished composer, having worked on the countless hit TV series, including Power, Legion, CSI: Cyber, Fargo, American Gothic and Lucifer.
If there was ever a movie that was made for cable TV or Netflix and not for theaters, Lizzie is it.
Lizzie Review By Tim Nasson