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5.91 h 45 min2018R
A psychological thriller based on the infamous 1892 murders of the Borden family.
Craig William Macneill
Kristen StewartChloe SevignyKim Dickens
SuspenseHorrorDramaArts, Entertainment, and Culture
English [CC]
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Naomi DespresLiz DestroChloë Sevigny
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4.0 out of 5 stars

1970 global ratings

  1. 53% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 16% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 17% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 7% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 7% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

AnonReviewed in the United States on December 27, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Subtle Insightful Well Acted Biopic
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I have probably seen just about every movie, TV movie, etc., about Lizzie Borden, over the years. I've also read about her and the case and watched documentaries. She's a cousin -- on both her parents' lines. (Who knew?) So while bored one day I saw this in the Amazon queue and decided to give it a try. I purchased the film. To be frank, I thought it would be some type of overly indulgent hand wringing psycho-drama due to its description.

It was not, at all. In fact the writing and acting were very subtle. The father is undoubtedly made out to be the villain of the piece, but not in a melodramatic mustache-twirling way. There is a recent theory that a history of sexual abuse was part of Lizzie's inner turmoil. In this film however the alleged victim is the family's live-in maid. I am not sure what the sexual abuse scenes are based upon, if anything; however it was not uncommon at all, in that era and earlier, for the head of household to 'take advantage' of the live-in help who had nowhere to run. The film presents it as a possible part of the pressure cooker situation inside the Borden family and household.

The "stepmother," Mrs. (Abby) Borden's life doesn't exactly look like a walk in the garden either; the film presents her, although a background character, with quiet sympathy. As Mr. Borden returns to the marital bed for sleep, it's clear in the closeup of Mrs. Borden's face that she knows exactly where he has been and what he has done. It's also clear in her horrified expression that she realizes how powerless she is to stop him. She is financially dependent in an era in which most women cannot work. She's a lady of a certain age and she's married to a man the community looks up to. There is a well acted moment in which the camera shows all of these realizations playing across Mrs. Borden's face. During the day, Mrs. Abby Borden tries to remain inconspicuous and obedient, much like Emma her step-daughter.

Mr. Borden, in addition to the abuse subplot, is portrayed as a strict authoritarian type, as well as a miser. Those are qualities usually assigned him in examinations of the family and case (fairly or not. Well, there is ample evidence of his 'frugality.') The film presents a gradual supposition that all of the women in that household were financially dependent upon, and somehow oppressed by, Mr. Borden. This is almost presented matter of fact, in the reactions of various minor characters, to things which would be objected to today. In that day, the women didn't really signify and the male opinion was absolute.

It's also the assertion of that film that Lizzie relied upon that chauvinism to get away with murder. (The jury simply could not believe a woman capable of two brutal homicides.)

The film alludes to some of Lizzie's 'difficulties' but really more focuses on her father's alleged unsympathetic nature. Things are left out such as the fact he had planned to gift his wife's sister a house, that had been promised to Lizzie and her sister, Emma. Other indignities are depicted as adding pressure instead. Details aside, it was plain as an old maid's face (in the minds of people of that era) that Lizzie and Emma would never be independent or 'free' as long as their father lived.

The film does not excuse Lizzie either: Her ruthless self preserving side is definitely shown as well. For instance, it seems planned that Mrs. Borden was killed first. In that way nothing could be inherited by Mrs. (Abby) Borden's heirs. It all fell to Mr. Borden and then to his heirs, Lizzie and Emma, as he was killed second.

Many viewers will not appreciate the lesbian affair between Lizzie and the family maid "Bridget" whether out of a conservative viewpoint or because there is no evidence of anything like it anywhere. However in my opinion a psychological basis was placed which would explain why the two women found "solace" in one another. Both were victimized by Mr. Borden, according to this film's script. Neither had anywhere else to go. Emma Borden, Lizzie's older sister, is portrayed as being the 'good sister' who does as told and accepts her lot and keeps out of all the drama.

Another scene many may not appreciate is the scene in which Mr. Borden kills all of Lizzie's pigeons, even though presumably it was all faked for the camera. It's meant to be brutal and was one of the things that allegedly pushed Lizzie over the edge. Her pigeons were her pets and the coop was her hobby and her solace.

The acting is subtle and well done. Nothing seems too anachronistic. Lizzie is not portrayed as a heroine of any type. The film attempts to show how a woman still dependent upon her father, an 'old maid' in the parlance of the era, with nowhere to turn and no one who will sympathize with her, was slowly driven mad.
71 people found this helpful
Paul AllaerReviewed in the United States on October 24, 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
3.5 stars... worth checking out for the performances of Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart
"Lizzie" (2018 release; 105 min.) is a bio-pic about Lizzie Borden. As the movie opens, we are told it is "August 4, 1892", and we see Lizzie walking around in the garden, and then going into the house, where we hear her scream and the camera shows a heavily mutilated slain body. We then go to "6 Months Earlier", as we get to know Bridget, an Irish girl who has gotten work as a maid in the Borden family that is ruled with an iron fist by Lizzie's dad. Lizzie and Bridget strike up an unlikely friendship... At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the 2nd feature length from up-and-coming director Craig William Macneill. Here he brings the latest Lizzie Borden movie adaptation (it'e been a TV movie several times over). While this is in a sense a "whodunnit" movie, as we are eager to find out exactly what happened on that August 4, 1892, it really is far more than that: Macneill is interested in showing us the atmosphere within which the Borden family (and maid) were living in. Beware: almost the entire film plays out in the Borden house, so at times this very much has the feeling of a stage play. On top of that, the music is sparse. It all has a bit of a claustrophobic feel to it. But the most important thing the movie has going for it are the terrific performances from the two lead actresses, Chloe Sevigny (who also co-produced) and Kristin Stewart. Yes, Stewart at times uses her patented "pained look", and quite effectively within the circumstances. This film is not a masterpiece, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

"Lizzie" premiered at this year's Sundance film festival, to positive buzz. It opened last month (in September) at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended dismally (3 people, including myself). If you are interested in a decent character study set in the late 19th century and blessed with some wonderful acting performances, I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater (if you still can), on Amazon Instant Video, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
84 people found this helpful
KCReviewed in the United States on December 17, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Elegant and horrifying
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This was a beautifully made movie, offering a unique but absolutely convincing possibility regarding the historical murders in Fall River. Sevigny absolutely stuns, illuminating her character's vast complexity. Stewart supports and reflects in a way that rounds out the effect, creating a captivating work of art. Will watch it again.
31 people found this helpful
Francis BaconReviewed in the United States on December 21, 2018
3.0 out of 5 stars
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Good acting from the girls of course, predictable storyline, but I guess I should have predicted it better, because the non-stop sexual and emotional abuse is not fun to watch. I suppose in hindsight it makes sense regarding this story in true history, so it's a good take on it, just wish I was smart enough to realize beforehand it was going to be so upsetting in that way.
25 people found this helpful
Gemma CheyneReviewed in the United States on January 17, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy and Bess
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SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILERSPOILER SPOILERSPOILER SPOILERSPOILER SPOILERSPOILER SPOILERSPOILER SPOILER****************************************************************************************************************************

I only know two things about the Lizzie Borden story: one is that a friend of mine's aunt who grew up in Fall River to be a famous author (Victoria Lincoln) visited Lizzie as a child, and wrote a book about Lizzie, and another book, "Goodbye Lizzie Borden" by Robert Sullivan, which contains a mind boggling floorplan of the Borden house. The floorplan is vital to the real story, but it is strange, the way H.H. Holmes is strange. The house is narrow and long and not built for comfort. Perhaps it is different f you take the tour there, though the entire house seems far more narrow and lacking in amenities (and who would not vomit after eating leftover--no refrigeration--lamb stew for breakfast? And cookies?) The economies forced upon the household by Andrew Borden apparently included lack of nutrition, feeling of good taste or sensitivity. The entire house and the family's habits were not all that clean (typical of a house with no modern amenities , which may have led to frequent illness and resentment, and just, well, MESS). Yes, Andrew did have many financial enemies, not just the ones in his own household, which means the real question is not why it was done, but by whom. It's a very complicated puzzle, and Lizzie was freed because of certain indelicate questions the male jury could not ask her. This movie lacks pretty much the entire police investigation, any legal politics, or the motives of other relatives. I'd say, simply following the money, the prime suspect would be Lizzie, as she would benefit by his death. Emma was the weaker of the two sisters and this may have been why she was out of town. But Lizzie never won any friends to her side; she behaved in a superior manner to the locals and formed what was considered a shocking at the time liaison with actress Nance O' Neil. What did Lizzie accomplish? Well, she got her inheritance. She lived as she pleased, as she cared nothing for anyone's opinion, and believed she had elevated status. That was nothing new. I just don't think any motive involving Bridget would be strong enough to have this double-homicide happen. It was an interesting take on it, but the one person she really trusted (and dominated) was her sister. To involve anyone, would mean their certain downfall--unless they inherited as well. Just my opinion. (I'm not a profiler but I play one on Amazon.)
12 people found this helpful
SaraReviewed in the United States on December 11, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
When murder was rare, patricide especially!
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Interesting, a different point of view. If the Borden axe murders interest you.... as murder was so rare it shook the world; it still should!!!!!
22 people found this helpful
MarieReviewed in the United States on December 13, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Take!
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I love Kristen Stewart, so of course I will watch anything with her in it. And this one is a bit win for me; the Lizzie Borden murders have fascinated me since I was quite a young child. And I love how Lizzie is portrayed in this film, and love the relationship between her and the maid, Bridget "Maggie" Sullivan. I highly recommend this to anyone who is or has ever been fascinated by Lizzie Borden.
15 people found this helpful
M.A. KleenReviewed in the United States on February 10, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
A Lackluster Revisionist Thriller
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Just four years after Lizzie Borden Took an Ax and the campy TV mini series it spawned, were audiences really clamoring for another Lizzie Borden film?

An uninspiring cast sleepwalks its way through this speculative take on an all-too-familiar story in Lizzie (2018), written by Bryce Kass and directed by Craig William Macneill. The film pits Lizzie Borden and the family’s live-in maid, Bridget Sullivan, against her tyrannical father and unsympathetic step mother in what co-producer and lead actress Chloë Sevigny described as an overtly feminist take.

The film opens in the aftermath of Andrew (Jamey Sheridan) and Abby (Fiona Shaw) Borden’s murder. An investigator asks their 32-year-old daughter, Lizzie (Chloë Sevigny), whether her father had any enemies. From there, the film rewinds to the family’s employment of a 25-year-old Irish maid named Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart). According to the filmmakers, that was the catalyst for the eventual double homicide, and the answer to the investigator’s question. There is never a question about Lizzie Borden’s involvement in her parent’s death. The obvious foil, and rival for Lizzie’s inheritance, her uncle John Morse (Denis O’Hare), serves as a flimsy red herring.

Lizzie’s central conflict is between Lizzie, Bridget, and her domineering father, who seeks to control all the women living under his roof. While Lizzie’s sister, Emma (Kim Dickens), fades into the background, Lizzie and Bridget find themselves in a compromising position, one that leads to her parents’ gruesome murder. Sevigny herself characterized this as a literal “smash the patriarchy” moment.

In real life, Andrew and Sarah Borden were found murdered in their Fall River, Massachusetts home on August 4, 1892. Their middle aged daughters, Lizzie and Emma, lived with them, along with their maid, Bridget Sullivan. There had been significant tension in the family leading up to the murders, and Lizzie gave conflicting alibis. Lizzie was arrested and put on trial. After 90 minutes of deliberation, the all-male jury acquitted her. Her trial was a national media sensation, but to this day, there are many competing theories about “whodunnit.”

Like most dramatizations of these events, Lizzie both assumes Lizzie Borden was guilty and that she committed the murders with an ax. In reality, the murder weapon was never determined, though the movie does try to explain why the hatchet in question lacked any evidence of being used in the crime. The film also omitted the food poisoning the family suffered, and the extended trip Lizzie and her sister took prior to the murders. Although the house interior looked accurate, the exterior bears little resemblance to its historic counterpart.

There’s also no evidence Lizzie was a lesbian or that she was sexually involved with Bridget Sullivan, or that Mr. Borden sexually assaulted Bridget. That allegation came from mystery author Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain)’s 1984 novel Lizzie, a work of fiction. Contemporary rumors about Lizzie’s sexuality were of the kind gossipers leveled at any unmarried, middle-aged person at the time.

Like Lizzie, Lifetime’s biopic Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (2014) also weirdly sexualizes her. Both films depict her as a seductress and show her committing the murders in the nude and drinking alcohol. Lizzie Borden was, in real life, an upper class spinster, Sunday school teacher, teetotaler, and member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Their contemporary revision of Lizzie Borden’s personality is where the two films part ways. For all its faults, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax at least accurately portrayed Lizzie and her sister Emma’s close relationship, while in Lizzie, Emma vanishes for most of the film. Their actual family dynamic was sidelined to make room for a lesbian fantasy, which at this point is such a boring cliche in feminist film.

Lizzie grossed $642,157 at the box office, and currently holds a 65% rating from critics and 56% audience favorability on RottenTomatoes. The filmmakers were obviously hoping controversy and its two leading ladies would carry their film, but even a contractually-obligated effort on the part of Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart couldn’t save this dreary rehash of a 126-year-old unsolved murder.
4 people found this helpful
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