Over the years, the New England legend of Lizzie Borden has inspired books, movies, even an opera.
Here are the facts: on August 4, 1892, in Fall River, Massachusetts, 32 year-old Lizzie and her sister Emma lived under the control of their oppressive father. But when Lizzie was tried and acquitted of his axe murder and that of her step-mother, it ignited many scenarios attempting to explain what actually happened.
In this wannabe psychological thriller, the lonely life of willful Lizzie Borden (Chloe Sevigny) is changed when a young maid, Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart), comes to work for the family. At that time, all female Irish servants were called ‘Maggie,’ rather than their given name. But defiant Lizzie recognizes Bridget as an individual.
Lizzie and Bridget are kindred spirits, lesbians in love at a repressive time when that was considered “an abomination.” And when Lizzie catches Andrew sexually abusing Bridget, she breaks a hand mirror, scattering shattered glass in her barefoot father’s path.
Penny-pinching Andrew Borden (Jamey Sheridan) and his submissive 2nd wife, Abby (Fiona Shaw), caricaturize villains, as Andrew and his wife’s brother, John Morse (Denis O’Hare), confer about how to improve their business prospects. Yet feckless John yearns to eliminate Andrew and institutionalize spinsters Lizzie and Emma, acquiring the family money for himself.
Sketchily written by Bryce Kass and heavy-handedly directed by Craig William Macneill, it features naked, blood-splattered Sevigny as a stolid, axe-wielding stalker. Actually, Lizzie’s lesbian preference was a pivotal point in an ominous 1984 thriller by Ed McBain – a.k.a. novelist Evan Hunter.
Best known as a New York avant-garde fashionista and independent-film actress, Chloe Sevigny aspires to be a filmmaker, directing two short films (“Kitty,” “Carmen”) before producing this one.
Sevigny views Lizzie Borden as an American outlaw, a pioneer for female autonomy, pivoting into the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Lizzie” is a feminist 4, a highbrow horror movie.