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Lizzie **

Salacious story oddly plays as a dull and timid character study, and it doesn't work. 

Is it worth $10? No  

The mythology surrounding Lizzie Borden’s alleged murder of her father and stepmother has become the stuff of legend, to the point that her name is often associated with the most gruesome murders ever recorded. Given how ripe Lizzie’s story is with sensationalism, scandal and money, it’s a surprise it’s taken this long to become the subject of a feature film.

It should’ve taken a little longer.

Director Craig William Macneill’s “Lizzie” is a tedious bore, with only a few moments of titillation to relieve the monotony. Sure, the pace of life was slow in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892, but that doesn’t mean the pace of the film needs to be the same. It’s as if the script wants to be more of a character study than a crime drama, and the characters just aren’t that interesting.



The Bordens are the wealthiest family in their small town. Patriarch Andrew (Jamey Sheridan) is a successful businessman, but his daughters Lizzie (Chloe Sevigny) and Emma (Kim Dickens) are frustrated by his frugality and controlling ways. Their stepmother Abby (Fiona Shaw) capitulates to Andrew’s wishes, leading to resentment from the daughters, especially Lizzie. The only other person living in the house is Bridget “Maggie” Sullivan, a housekeeper who’s pretty because she’s played by Kristen Stewart.

Bryce Kass’ screenplay brings a lesbian and feminist spin to the murders, which is okay given that the movie doesn’t purport to depict reality, as suggested by the fact that the script was not adapted from a previously published source. The problem is that Kass doesn’t spice up his historical fiction to make it more entertaining. The murder scene is memorable for a number of reasons, yet the rest of the film – including a fully clothed sex scene between Lizzie and Maggie – is as lame as could be.

Surely it’s not easy to take a story from 1892 and make it relevant to the headlines of 2018, but that appears to be the intention here. This is about oppressed women revolting against their handlers in an oppressive society. By empowering Lizzie and Maggie, Macneill believes we’ll cheer for them as well, and we do, but that line stops at a double axe-murder. Viewers end up rooting for characters who prove unworthy of sympathy. That makes it a hard watch.

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Sevigny is solid in the title role, but Stewart reverts back to the pained angst she used in the often-unwatchable “Twilight” movies. Aside from an Irish accent, she shows none of the acting chops she demonstrated in “Clouds of Sils Maria” and other recent films. There are certainly some gutsy moments in “Lizzie” that couldn’t have been easy to shoot, but the character doesn’t extend or push Stewart in a notable way.

At some point a filmmaker will figure out how to handle the complicated character that is Lizzie Borden, and when that happens it’s possible a good movie will be made about her life. “Lizzie,” sadly, is not it.

Did you know?
The film was shot in 23 days in…Savannah, Georgia!

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