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With: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Kim Dickens, Denis O'Hare
Written by: Bryce Kass
Directed by: Craig William Macneill
MPAA Rating: R for violence and grisly images, nudity, a scene of sexuality and some language
Running Time: 105
Date: 09/14/2018

Lizzie (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Axe to Grind

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Craig William Macneill's Lizzie re-imagines the legendary Lizzie Borden murders, placing Lizzie (Chloë Sevigny) as an innocent in a world full of vile, rotten men, and her relationship with servant girl Bridget (Kristen Stewart) throttled by the ignorance and bigotry of the times. The movie could have been hot pulp, but instead it plays like a drastic costume drama, with characters sitting grimly in rooms while other characters enter and talk sternly to one another. Virtually nothing happens for almost an hour, aside from an opening flash-forward showing the discovery of the bloody bodies.

After that time, Macneill and screenwriter Bryce Kass finally provide a moment of tenderness and surrender between the two women, but they fail to generate enough heat to bring murder into the equation. Then, the movie attempts to generate suspense by showing the aftermath of the murder, followed, finally, by the murders themselves. Macneill finds many interesting camera angles, with Lizzie off-kilter within the frame, or fading out of focus, or a few dazzling circular pans, but they seem to be at odds with the staid, unmoving material.

Jamey Sheridan plays Lizzie's father Andrew, permanently frowning; when he turns down an offer of a fresh pear, it sounds like an insult. His malevolence is suggested when he creeps into bed with a struggling Bridget, then slides back into his own marital bed. Fiona Shaw looks miserable as his wife, and Denis O'Hare is merely nasty as Lizzie's uncle, who would have inherited the family fortune, if Andrew's will were ever found. Kim Dickens has extremely little to do as Lizzie's sister Emma (I wasn't even sure who she actually was for half the film). The Borden case has fascinated folks for over a century, and it deserves an equally fascinating movie. Lizzie isn't it.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release includes a featurette, "Understanding Lizzie" (10 mins.), and several trailers at startup. Its 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack is excellent, and the video transfer is fine. It also includes optional English subtitles, and a digital copy.

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