Lizzie Borden took an axe/But there are things this movie lacks. Director Craig William Macneill and screenwriter Bryce Kass take on the story of the infamous accused parent-murderer (Chloë Sevigny) in 1892 Massachusetts, exploring her life under the thumb of her domineering father (Jamey Sheridan) and her relationship with the wealthy Borden family’s new Irish maid, Bridget (Kristen Stewart). Macneill goes heavy on the gothic horror vibe from the outset, with ominous music and plenty of people creeping through the dark while holding candles, while Sevigny digs into the role of a woman who’s a unique combination of strong and fragile at a time when both extremes could be used against women. Monstrous masculinity becomes the over-the-top villain here, however, in a way that makes the nods to female empowerment—including the sexual connection between Lizzie and Bridget—feel more like opportunistic posturing than genuine insight. By the time we get to the staging of the actual murders, Lizzie feels like the material of a gritty little genre picture covered in so many layers of commentary on class and gender that the whole enterprise feels more oppressive than liberating.
Director: Craig Macneill
Producer: Naomi Despres, Elizabeth Destro, Chloë Sevigny, Myles Nestel, Bryce Kass and Carolyn Hunt
Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Kim Dickens, Denis O'Hare, Jeff Perry and Jay Huguley