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[Sundance Review] ‘Lizzie’ – Room and Borden

[Sundance Review] ‘Lizzie’ – Room and Borden

This take on the Lizzie Borden murders posits a sympathetic motive to Borden’s axe murders. By suggesting that her father was a homophobic rapist, Lizzie has the audience primed for her to deliver 40 whacks.

Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart) comes to work for the Bordens and Andrew Borden (Jamey Sheridan) immediately takes to entering her room. Bridget also begins an affair with Lizzie (Chloe Sevigny) of which Andrew disapproves. He basically forces Lizzie into a position where she has to kill both her parents to survive.

Lizzie begins at the crime scene and flashes back. There is some scattered violence along the way, mini revenges on Lizzie’s part and some animal brutality on Andrew’s. There are some jump scares too so Lizzie deals in horror tropes as it builds to the money shots. We see a full frontal shot of Andrew’s face wound about 70 minutes in and the film does finally show the entire murder scene.

It shouldn’t be a spoiler to talk about the Lizzie Borden murder scene. That’s what you came for and Lizzie delivers. Lizzie strips off her clothes to keep from contaminating them with evidence. So you get to see Sevigny naked and splattered with blood as she delivers the whacks. I lost count but I don’t think they showed 40. Maybe 15 each parent.

The murder is methodical. Lizzie goes through the plan like clockwork. When one thing doesn’t go exactly as planned she is ready to adapt. Some legal details add an intellectual twist to the murder. Those details may be well known to Borden enthusiasts. If you didn’t know, the order of the murders makes a difference and could have established motive.

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The plot and performances are all good. Some other details betray that Lizzie is an indie film made in 2017 so they did the best they could. The interiors of the Borden house are so white that the scenes are too bright. They’re blinding. Andrew receives some threatening handwritten notes and I have no idea what they said.  The second time they’re shown I got that they had something to do with his sin. So they could implicate another character or they could be red herrings, but 19th century cursive is tough. You can hear an echo in the dialogue too. If you’ve ever been to Colonial Williamsburg, you know that the acoustics in those old houses aren’t good. I mean, they weren’t designed for production sound.

But it sure beats the Lifetime Lizzie Borden Chronicles, so Lizzie is the Lizzie Borden story for a modern generation. It’s a plausible inference, and since an educated guess is all we can make now, perhaps Lizzie will provoke further exploration into the history of this famous crime.



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