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Tags: lizzie | movie | film | review | chloe sevigny

'Lizzie' Is a Slow-Burn Thriller With Teeth

'Lizzie' Is a Slow-Burn Thriller With Teeth
In this Aug 23, 2018, photo, Kristen Stewart, left, and Chloe Sevigny pose for a portrait at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles to promote their film "Lizzie," a provocative Lizzie Borden biopic. (Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)

Michael Clark By Thursday, 20 September 2018 03:45 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Score: 3 stars *** out of 4 ****

The latest in a long line of operas, ballets, musicals, TV, and feature films, “Lizzie” centers on one of the country’s highest-profile unsolved multiple murder cases. In 1892 Massachusetts, businessman Andrew Borden (Jamey Sheridan) and his second wife Abby (Fiona Shaw) were brutally slaughtered by an ax and all evidence indicated Borden’s daughter Lizzie (a chilling Chloe Sevigny) was the culprit.

Opening with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glances of two corpses, sophomore director Craig William Macneill (“The Boy”) and rookie feature writer Bryce Kass construct an out-of-sequence narrative which takes a little time getting used to. “Lizzie” starts in earnest six months earlier with the arrival of Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart), a mousy and reserved Irish housekeeper who is immediately treated like a second class citizen by Abby. The bristling British widow Abby married the widower Andrew three years after the death of his first wife Sarah and often hid behind her religious beliefs as justification for her frugal shrillness and boorish demeanor.

The equally miserly and irascible Andrew wasn’t much better. Having made a considerable fortune from banking, real estate, and textiles, Andrew was too cheap to opt for indoor plumbing and electricity for his home. Even though these were considered luxuries at the time, he could well afford them. This didn’t sit well with Lizzie or her older sister Emma (Kim Dickens) who were called on by their father to behave like aristocrats but not to enjoy the perks of being wealthy.

For very different reasons, Andrew and Lizzie — in an attempt to make up for Abby’s rudeness — pay attention to Bridget with drastically different approaches. Recognizing that Bridget was illiterate, Lizzie taught her how to read, included her in shopping trips, and made her feel less like the “help.” Andrew’s intentions regarding Bridget were downright loathsome and are better left vague here, yet it is safe to say what he did to her might get him killed.

Lizzie and, to a lesser extent, Emma didn’t care for Abby and neither called her “mother” much to Andrew’s chagrin. He also wasn’t pleased with Lizzie’s rebel streak, which at the time meant going to the theater unaccompanied. She knew how to get to him and took relish in making him fume. It was only after Andrew started receiving cryptic and anonymous notes left on the front porch did Lizzie stop needling him.

The arrival of these notes had a great effect on Andrew, a man who readily admitted to having many enemies and like any man of means thought it would be a good idea to get his affairs in order. To this end he consulted with John Morse (Denis O’Hare), the brother of his first wife with whom he’d had several previous business dealings. Somewhat resentful that the death of his sister took him “out of the loop” as it were, Morse hid his feelings and motives well but when pushed far enough would lose his cool.

The filmmakers take as long as they possibly can before depicting the murders of Abby and Andrew and in doing so leave no doubt who did it. Although graphic, Macneill employs some tricky camera work and sound effects and although most of the gore is wisely handled off-screen it is still jarring.

Also handled with relative restraint is the budding romance between Lizzie and Bridget and an extended love scene between Sevigny and Stewart, a sub-plot of the film surely to appeal to both actresses considerable fan bases, male and female.

A slow-burn, deliberately-paced affair, “Lizzie” is an art-house thriller with teeth which eschews typical thriller bells and whistles and builds its sense of dread instead with still, quiet dead air. It is a well-known story that has been told dozens of times before yet this production brings something new to the legend and the lore. It is during the extensive detail regarding what took place in the lesser known immediate and extended aftermath where the real mystery began and never quite found proper closure and could surprise even many already familiar with the story going in.

Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national media outlets and is currently the only newspaper-based film critic providing original content in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace and he recently co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. Over the last two decades, Mr. Clark has written over 3,500 movie reviews and film related articles for the Gwinnett Daily Post and is one of the scant few conservative-minded U.S. critics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The latest in a long line of operas, ballets, musicals, TV, and feature films, “Lizzie” centers on one of the country’s highest-profile unsolved multiple murder cases.
lizzie, movie, film, review, chloe sevigny
Thursday, 20 September 2018 03:45 PM
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