Lizzie movie poster

Writer Bryce Kass cobbles together every juicy detail from the many theories regarding the 1892 real-life murder of well-to-do New Englanders Mr. and Mrs. Borden, quite possibly at the hands of their adult daughter Lizzie: the forbidden yearnings between Lizzie (Chloë Sevigny) and the family maid (Kristen Stewart), Lizzie’s stigmatizing fits and spells, the conniving relative angling for the inheritance, the unfeeling stepmother, and over all and above all and pressing down hard, a very bad Dad —  a penny-pinching patriarchal predator full of hypocrisy and hate, a man whose great genius seems to be for making the women in his life miserable and afraid. By the time he decapitates Lizzie’s pet pigeons and has them served for dinner, it’s clear that he’s more monstrous cartoon than man: a summing up of all the casual, controlling cruelty visited upon women by a society that regards them as a decoration, a nuisance, or a threat. Happily(?), director Craig Macneill is able to pressurize the atmosphere of his claustrophobic scenes to the point where the exaggeration seems of a piece with the rest of the story. He gets help here from Sevigny, who plays damaged and desperate better than Stewart plays simple and suffering. When the time comes for the famous axe and whacks, Lizzie reveals itself as more Greek tragedy than murder mystery — a depiction of feminine ferocity and ingenuity in the face of injustice. 2018.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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