'Lizzie' review: Chloe Sevigny brings a passionate spin to this unique retelling of a legendary murder case
The question is, does it need to be told again? While this certainly is a unique retelling, what basis does it have in reality? Very little, from what we can gather.
Starring Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, ‘Lizzie’ is a violent, feministic take on the infamous crime that Hollywood just can’t get enough of. The story of Lizzie Borden, the young woman who brutally murdered her father and step-mother in cold blood in 1892, has been retold countless times, each one having a unique take on the gruesome family murders.
The most recent narrative Hollywood is telling is an interesting take, to say the least. In a sensationalized retelling, Sevigny stars as Lizzie Borden, the daughter of an abusive successful businessman whose oddities has left her shunned by high society. Ailing from what appears to be epilepsy, Lizzie lives a life of loneliness, that is until she meets the family’s new maid Bridget Sullivan (Stewart), an Irish immigrant. The chemistry is instant between the two women, sparking a journey of forbidden love and violence.
In this mostly fictionalized retelling of history, Bridget is sexually assaulted by Lizzie’s father Andrew Borden (played by Jamey Sheridan) time and time again. After receiving mysterious death threats, Andrew plans on changing his will to sign over his money and his daughters lives to his brother John (played by Denis O’Hare), a greedy and malevolent man with only his best interest in mind.
As the relationship between Lizzie and Bridget continues to grow, Andrew becomes more and more of a threat to both of the women. After the women’s relationship turns romantic, Andrew finds out and forbids them from having any interaction with each other. And just as the story is told, Lizzie takes an axe to her father and her step-mother, brutally murdering them both. The big twist in this tale is, Bridget was Lizzie’s partner in crime.
The rest of this highly imaginative take on history unfolds and the audience is left with yet another take on this crazy story. The question is, does it need to be told again? While this certainly is a unique telling, what basis does it have in reality? Very little, from what we can gather. Again, it’s a slow build with a bleak payoff and because of that, it’s unclear what the point really was. Speaking of something else that may not need to be told (or seen) is the murder scene itself. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the murder involved a gratuitous amount of nudity seemingly trying to sexualize these two women committing a horrendous act.
With that being said, Sevigny’s performance is fantastic; she was clearly made to play this role. Stewart does a good enough job playing the Irish maid that falls in love with her superior, but it did feel like a stretch that was not quite reached. The chemistry between the women was palpable, and for that, I commend the filmmakers and actresses for slowly building this explosive relationship. Was the effort there? The talent? Sure. However considering the filmmakers were merely making up history at this point, it begged for a much better, more satisfying ending.
If you’re fascinated with the story of Lizzie Borden, this might be worth a watch. Or perhaps it isn’t, as it’s very loosely based in any sort of reality, which could certainly annoy the history buffs that can’t get enough of this story. Regardless, this is definitely a film that will spark conversation. 'Lizzie' is scheduled to premiere on September 14, 2018, and will be distributed by Saban Films and Roadside Attractions.