Be nice to all women, fellas.
It’s 1892 and Lizzie Borden (Chloe Sevigny) has been living under the watchful eye of her father (Jamey Sheridan), who isn’t happy with the life she’s chosen to live. She mostly keeps to herself, reads a lot, thinks for herself, and often says stuff that makes her very opinionated, but at the same time, not everyone’s favorite person to be around. It’s probably one of the main reasons why she doesn’t have a husband, or even any prospects to speak of. But her life changes a whole bunch when Bridget (Kristen Stewart), an Irish immigrant, begins working for the family as a maid and the two instantly click for some reasons that neither can really explain. However, they find each other in a hopeless place, when it seems like the rest of the world is falling down around them and it leads them to commit some heinous acts – the same acts that would make Lizzie Borden a name synonymous in popular-culture.
The tale of Lizzie Borden isn’t necessarily untouched material. We’ve seen countless movies, TV shows, books, miniseries, and tons and tons of fan fiction about the women, what she did, how she lived her life, and why she’s always been of interest to the whole world. But what director Craig Macneill does so well is take this story that we all pretty much know by heart now and gives it a much more uneasy and teen look and feel by always keeping the material focused on Lizzie and Bridget, regardless of what’s happening all around them.
And this is what’s led a lot of people to call Lizzie, the movie, “feminist”, when I don’t know if that’s true considering what eventually happens at the end. However, what it does make this is an engaging, if awfully sad love story that takes on darker meanings and feelings as the story progresses and we realize that Macneill is saying more about the way women in society are treated, especially if they are as out-spoken and open as Lizzie Borden. He’s also not necessarily condoning the actions Borden takes, but he’s also showing that the heinous acts of these misogynistic men led to something awful and despicable, regardless of if you agree with the actions or not.
Cause we all disagree with what Borden eventually does, right?
But that’s what’s perhaps most interesting about Lizzie, is that we see mostly everything through the eyes of Bridget and Borden, making it an interesting viewpoint that we sympathize with immediately. It also helps that, in what seems like forever, Sevigny is given a solid leading-role that gives her ample opportunity to have us believe in this rather privileged, pretentious girl who goes mad and loses it all one fateful day; there’s even something inherently creepy in the way Sevigny portrays Borden as just another average gal who says what she thinks and doesn’t really care. It makes you see her for the human she was, but makes her eventual actions all the more disturbing.
Same goes for Kristen Stewart who has the task of working with an Irish accent and believe it or not, she works well with it. Her story is also a sad one and no matter how deep we get into Sevigny’s Borden, we never seem to forget that Bridget’s always there, off to the side, sad, alone and in desperate need of some love and attention. Unfortunately, both women eventually get what they want.
Do we all support cold-blooded killing or something?
Consensus: Though this story has been explored before, Lizzie takes a much more low-key approach that allows for the performances to work their magic, and make the ending all the more tragically disturbing.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Saban Films and Roadside Attractions