Sometimes a slightly different spin is needed…
Lizzie shines a light on an infamous set of murders in a new way giving to a mash up of several of the more popular theories and turning it into a fairly effective spin on female empowerment and sexual awakening.
Lizzie Borden (Chloe Sevigny) was a strange and fragile woman, unmarried at the age of 32 (unheard of at the time) and a social outcast was living a claustrophobic life under her father’s cold and domineering control. When Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart), a young maid, comes to work for the family, Lizzie finds a sympathetic, kindred spirit, and a secret intimacy soon blossoms into a wicked plan.
Although it has some bloated and unnecessary moments throughout, Lizzie actually works as a call to female empowerment and still plays a little too closely to some current events (minus the murder) then a lot of us would be comfortable admitting when it comes to the always complex relationships between men and women; and how they treat one another.
Director Craig William MacNeill assembles a decent enough yarn not having to overly dress his surroundings keeping most of the action to a handful of locations as the narrative moves at a decent pace only occasionally getting hung up on the occasional linger long shot or unnecessary close up. It always feels like a period piece thanks to the strong use of lighting and tone.
The script by Bryce Kass works well enough, interjecting the character of Bridget as a catalyst in the life of Lizzie Borden. While the film does have some truly overt moments of unnecessary exposition (her father was a bastard…we get it) the film does flow at a solid pace from beginning to end and the ensemble does have a good grasp on the material.
Chloe Sevigny (who also serves as a producer on the film) knew she could really give this character a new edge. Rather than playing her as totally manic and sick, we get Lizzie as a woman on edge on the brink of a new world unable to express herself in her surroundings which are totally male dominated. She never plays it for crazy but rather as someone who refuses to be abused any longer and finally stand up for herself (all be it in the most violent and inappropriate way possible).
For better or worse, Lizzie is a woman who feels like she just didn’t have a choice anymore and we buy into that, while on the flip side of that coin Margaret is her conscience and her hope for a world away from her father. Kirsten Stewart brings her always stalwart skills to the forefront here playing the torment servant girl well but also knowing what line she simply could never cross.
While it’s not something that reinvents the storytelling wheel, Lizzie does enough right to hold our attention and make for a solid piece of feminist revenge cinema that reminds us all that we really have to be a lot nicer to one another.