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"Lizzie" Movie Review

Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.


Have you ever read about an event but not all the blanks were filled in so you were left puzzling and speculating what actually happened? That's how the story of Lizzie Borden is. There's so much we know and yet there's so much more that we don't know. We may never discover the whole truth behind what happened that fateful day, but this film's theory is very interesting and fills in a lot of gaps very nicely.

Since most everyone knows the story, or at least the legend, of Lizzie Borden, I won't refrain from potential spoilers for the film. It remains historically accurate for the most part so if you want to know the story before you see the film, grab an encyclopedia or visit wikipedia then come back here.

So, what exactly does the film suggest? We know from witness accounts, personal writings, and the trial that Lizzie had a troubled life despite being from a wealthy family. Her father refused to have a bathroom in the house and never used electricity. Lizzie says in the film that her father found it "too extravagant". Her father was also prone to extreme behavior, killing Lizzie's pigeons instead of just releasing them and, though never proven, it's possible he was also abusive. The film posits that he forced himself on the 25 year-old Bridget Sullivan, a live-in housemaid for the Bordens. Bridget had immigrated from Ireland on her own, most likely in search of a better life just like other immigrants. It's not completely known why Bridget left during Lizzie's trial, but we do know she moved to a farm in Montana. The film suggests that perhaps Lizzie was emotionally attached to Bridget, maybe even attracted to her, to the point that Lizzie killed her father out of hatred for how he had been treating not only Bridget but also the rest of the family. But why was the stepmother killed first? Possibly because she did nothing to help Lizzie or Bridget and also possibly because if Lizzie's father died first then the stepmother's side of the family would get everything but if the stepmother died first then the father's side of the family would get everything. This could also explain why Lizzie and her sister became estranged after the trial. Lizzie inherited it all and Emma hated her for it.

The film is directed and acted brilliantly. I couldn't ask for a better film. Kristen Stewart must have trained with a professional because her Irish accent was spot-on. There were only a couple times when I could hear it slip but she fixed it immediately. I have to give her top marks for delivering on two of the most emotional scenes in the film. I know I said I wouldn't refrain from spoilers, but I will refrain from revealing those. It's far better if you experience them for yourself. Let's just say that they will hit home for many people out there, women or not. Chloe Sevigny was perfect as Lizzie Borden, giving a solid performance that both made you feel sorry for her and creeped you out. The chemistry between Kristen and Chloe was magnetic to say the least. There wasn't a dull moment between the two. Bryce Kass wrote the screenplay, doing his best to keep historical accuracy all the while crafting a philosophical debate within a psychological masterpiece. The big questions he asks through his writing is: how much abuse and pain do you take before you do something about it? How far would you go when you do take action? He humanizes Lizzie and really tries to help you understand that, maybe just maybe, she wasn't crazy but had just had enough. Craig Macneill directed the film, perfectly depicting the hardships in that time period and the struggles that Lizzie and Bridget actually did and possibly did go through. Bryce and Craig proved to be a great team, keeping the film tense and causing you to hold your breath even though you knew already what would inevitably happen. That's the sign of true geniuses at work. The cinematography was brilliant as well. I felt like I had been transported directly into 1892, witnessing the events just as Bridget did.

In conclusion, I highly enjoyed the film and couldn't have asked for a better interpretation of the mysterious events. I give the film a 4 out of 4.

© 2018 Nathan Jasper