Lizzie cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Craig William Macneill and Roadside Attractions is a tragic tale when it comes to LIZZIE.

Lizzie Borden (Chloë Sevigny) is a woman who is unimpressed by what others think of her much to the irritation of her father Andrew (Jamey Sheridan). Living in her father’s home in Fall Rivers, Massachusetts with sister Emma (Kim Dickens) and step-mother Abby (Fiona Shaw), Lizzie is keenly aware of everything.

Especially when she realizes that her father Andrew has been handling his affairs in a way that Lizzie feels is irresponsible. When servant Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart) comes into the home, Lizzie begins to feel as if there is someone in that house who understands her.

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Constantly under her father’s thumb, Lizzie rebels when she can and the consequences are physically draining. Making matters even more dangerous, Andrew has given John Morse (Denis O’Hare) more control over family affairs. Even sister Emma tries to reason with Lizzie explaining this is how their life is.

As their relationship progresses, it is Lizzie’s father who begins to tighten the hold on both his daughter and Bridget. That is when the two women decide that nothing is going to keep them apart.

Nothing and no one.

Sevigny as Lizzie is intense, keeping her emotions in check but making sure her words cut deep and swift. Making it as clear as possible, no matter what her fathers says Lizzie will have her own life. Sevigny has that ability to keep a stoic expression and although this may be based on a true story, she isn’t giving anything away.

Stewart as Bridgett is just as nervous and a cat on a hot tin roof living in the Borden home. Dealing with Andrew’s proclivities, she finds solace with Lizzie that isn’t setting to well with the other members of the family. After the murders is where the mystery between the two women grows and Stewart plays her part well.

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Sheridan as Andrew is a man who doesn’t treat others the way he would want to be treated. In fact, he sees mostly everyone as someone for him to control and take serious advantage of. The tension between Andrew and Lizzie is a battle of wills. Sheridan takes on the battle and gives more than a few jaw dropping moments.

Shaw as Abby is a woman attempting to take over the spot left by Borden’s first wife and Lizzie isn’t having a minute of it. Shaw is stern and goes along to get along but don’t think for one moment she isn’t clued in on what goes on inside her own home. Dickens as Emma just wants her sister to not make waves and again, that isn’t sitting well with Lizzie.

O’Hare as John Morse is the sleazy, greedy uncle and had every reason to do the job himself but he was never accused. Instead he completely loses his mind when believing he had his life settled with the stroke of a pen on a will. Once again Lizzie makes sure he is put in his place.

Other cast include Jeff Perry as Andrew Jennings, Tara Ochs as Susan Gilbert, Jay Huguley as William Moody, and Tom Thon as Professor Wood.

LIZZIE is the story of Lizzie Borden who, on August 4, 1892, was accused of axing her father Andrew and step-mother Abbey to death. Going to trial for the murders brought the town notoriety and when acquitted of the charges, saw the beginnings of a mystery that has lasted to this day.

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This is not the first hint that Lizzie was caught in an intense relationship as the as the 1984 book Lizzie was the first time I was introduced to the possibility that the axe wielding young woman was caught in a love affair. Now writer Bruce Kass and director Craig Macneill bring it all to the screen and once again we are left to decide.

The cast brings it all into riveting focus with hints, family secrets and what could truly have been going on behind the doors of the Borden home. In 1975, actress Elizabeth Montgomery of the television series Bewitched fame game a harrowing performance about Lizzie Borden. This was considered shocking at the time and if you haven’t seen that version I suggest you should, it’s very well done.

Now, with LIZZIE, the story is expanded in another direction that brings Lizzie Borden and her entire household into question. Sevigny and Stewart are the bearers of great burden and an even greater secret and it became clear through their performances that their characters would take a secret to their graves.

The cinematography is bleak and color deprived which only adds to the story of a bleak and color deprived household. I love the costuming but I truly am a fan of period pieces that are done extremely well as in this case.

In the end – it is the legend of Lizzie Borden!