Lizzie (2018)

*. Because the imagination tends to dwell on unsolved crimes, the axe murders of Mr. and Mrs. Borden in 1892 have stayed with us, and indeed grown over the years into a kind of folk tale that much can be projected on. I think it’s long been the majority (but not universal) opinion that young Lizzie Borden did the ghastly deed. Her reasons why, if she had reasons, have, however, provided much ground for conjecture in various re-enactments.
*. To mention just some pertinent highlights. The 1975 TV-movie The Legend of Lizzie Borden had Lizzie (Elizabeth Montgomery) committing the murders (or at least imagining herself committing the murders) in the nude, then washing the blood off so that she didn’t get any on her clothes. Canadian playwright Sharon Pollock’s Blood Relations premiered in 1980, casting culpability for the Borden killings on society at large, with the audience being a stand-in. The play also suggested that Lizzie was a lesbian. In 1984 Ed McBain’s novel Lizzie explicitly had it that Lizzie, the killer, was in a lesbian relationship with the maid Bridget.
*. I bring up all this background just to show that this Lizzie (which includes all of the elements just mentioned) wasn’t breaking any new ground in 2018. Far from it. Yes, you can see it as a movie of the #MeToo era, with Mr. Borden being a sexual predator getting his comeuppance, but that’s hardly a fresh take on the case. Nothing here is.
*. This leaves us with the presentation. I wasn’t that impressed. It’s a low-budget production and looks it, mostly confined to a few interior sets. The direction is not inspiring. The only nod toward building suspense is to throw in some creepy and discordant music.
*. Chloë Sevigny, for whom this was a pet project, is very good as Lizzie. Kristen Stewart has an indifferent Irish accent. The rest of the cast don’t stand out. The script never fully comes to a point. Bridget asks why Lizzie was doing this to help her, and I guess this is what the movie wants us to consider as the big question. But isn’t it obvious? Because if it isn’t obvious — that Lizzie has genuine affection for Bridget — then I can’t think of what sort of conclusion I’m supposed to be drawing.
*. I wish I could say I liked this more, but there was none of the style or atmosphere it needed to make it work and in the end I found it pretty dull.

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