Thursday, September 20, 2018

Why did Lizzie Borden wield her ax?

Directed by Craig William Macneill, Lizzie showcases the work of Chloe Sevigny as Lizzie Borden, the 19th century Massachusettes woman who purportedly killed her stepmother and father with an ax. Sevigny gives an unnerving performance in which her face can show either rigid determination or the unraveled fury of a woman who has unleashed a terrifying rage. Sevigny's Lizzie finds herself in the middle of a tale of repression so severe, only the most violent assertion can break its hold. Sevigny is aided by Kristen Stewart, who plays Bridget, a diffident Irish maid who works for the Borden family and who becomes Lizzie's lover. Jamey Sheridan exemplifies all the worst qualities of patriarchy; he portrays Andrew Borden, a man of punishing cruelties that may be intended to mask his own sexual desires. Fiona Shaw plays Lizzie's stepmother -- not quite wicked but acquiescent in her husband's sadism. Denis O'Hare portrays uncle John, an unscrupulous facilitator of Mr. Borden's business life. Slowly paced, Lizzie ultimately delivers the bloody goods with a naked Lizzie chopping her way into American criminal lore. Carefully appointed and photographed, Lizzie ultimately suffers from its one-note insistence on turning Lizzie into a warrior against patriarchy. The movie juxtaposes period-piece pacing with a contemporary reading of the Borden story. The mixture doesn't always work, but there's no denying Sivigny's commitment to the role; she cuts through the movie's lumbering pace with a bluntly expressed but towering rage.

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