Movie Review: Lizzie

LIZZIE 

Starring: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jay Huguley, Fiona Shaw, Jamey Sheridan, Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare, Jeff Perry 
Directed by: Craig William Macneill
Written by: Bryce Kass

Lizzie was infused with Victorian restraint and Puritan repression, which were effective for the first third or so of the movie but ultimately made it feel like one long anticlimax. For a movie that was largely marketed around its sex and murder scenes, there wasn’t much of a payoff.

After lots of angsty gazing and chaste unbuttoning, the sex scene lasted only a few seconds and consisted largely of humping on a haystack. It felt deeply awkward and dispassionate. As for the murder, I loved the use of practical effects for Andrew Borden’s hatchet wound to the face. (The director clearly did, too, considering the loving close-ups on it.) Chloë Sevigny’s Lizzie was quite impressive– her interactions with her father Andrew and uncle Jack simmer with rage and powerlessness.

I wish some more of the historical details– such as the sealskin cape, prussic acid, and burned dress — had been included but I was impressed by the details which WERE correct. The scene where Andrew Borden kills Lizzie’s beloved pigeons was fantastically acted and edited. I’m glad it was left in. It’s definitely one of my favorite details about Lizzie and the days leading up to the murder.

The cinematography was fantastic, often more compelling than the minimalist script and soundtrack. The scene was set without a word; extra time devoted to the interior and landscape shots delighted in the details of Victorian Fall River, MA. I also loved the liberal use of shots at strange angles (around corners, through leaves, extreme close-ups, in mirrors, etc.) to establish the claustrophobic atmosphere of the stifling Borden household. The viewer is never allowed to forget that they are a voyeur, which is an excellent quality in a historically grounded thriller.

I went and saw Lizzie on September 27th, after spending all day alternately glued to and trying to avoid coverage of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. As a rape survivor who chose not to report my assault, the coverage was difficult to watch. I was filled with righteous feminist anger on Dr. Ford’s behalf and a desire to do something with it other than exercise while listening to heavy metal.

On the spur of the moment, I went to a screening at 10:00 PM and was one of four other people in the theater. I was expecting a deeply satisfying female-rage induced catharsis, and was a little disappointed. But maybe that’s exactly the point. The movie moves so slowly that it almost feels like real time, and the denouement extends far past the murders. Lizzie’s life was not a convenient narrative to escape into for a few hours. The movie has no interest in being sensationalistic.

Molly McGowan is a consulting archivist, or historical gossip connoisseur, living in Boston. Her passions in life are making elaborate crafts to foist upon her loved ones, trying not to get trampled on the rugby pitch, soliciting life advice from her many tarot decks, and searching eternally for the perfect vegetarian Buffalo wings.

Molly McGowan

Molly McGowan is a consulting archivist, or historical gossip connoisseur, living in Boston. Her passions in life are making elaborate crafts to foist upon her loved ones, trying not to get trampled on the rugby pitch, soliciting life advice from her many tarot decks, and searching eternally for the perfect vegetarian Buffalo wings.

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