Chew's Reviews - Lizzie

September 19, 2018 | 

What do the following films have in common? First, BOYS DON'T CRY … then, CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA. BOYS had in its cast, ChloëSevigny … SILS MARIA boasted Kristen Stewart. Both play lesbians: Sevigny with Hilary Swank … and Stewart co-starred with Juliette Binoche. Each film was terrific. And now we've got Chloë and Kristen together in LIZZIE, as lesbians: Sevigny, in the title role and Stewart as Bridgette Sullivan. Bridgette was the Andrew Borden household's live-in maid, having immigrated to America from Ireland. (If Donald Trump had been in politics some years before the 20th century, he would've probably used Bridgette's coming to the U-S as a talking point for his wall. Just keep telling yourself the wall is only more trumpery.)

Too bad LIZZIE, directed by Craig William Macneill, doesn't measure up to the two earlier films. As the Borden ax murders are legendary, having been re-written many times, one might imagine … based on the the facts issuing from the saga of Lizzie Borden and the familial tragedy surrounding this 19th century New England woman ... a script could write itself. And replete with suspense, dread and horror, too. This LIZZIE is always cranking up the suspense; dread is omnipresent, and … “Oh the horror,” bloody as some of it is, soul-rattling. The regular horror film-goer should dig LIZZIE lots. (I think the “regular” horror movies are released more than regularly.)

Lesbianism makes the Borden Caper something akin to alluring. Rumors flew regularly in and around Fall River, Massachusetts in the late eighteen-hundreds that Lizzie had a yen for females and, maybe, Bridgette, as well. So, with suppositions in hand, Bryce Kass beefed-up his film script in order to state both of these young women disrobed, totally, while committing the atrocious acts of ax hacking to death both Lizzie Borden's SOB of a father and her stepmother. I rather “liked” these sequences; they were cautiously shot so as not to reveal all ... but just enough ... to leave no doubt in any viewer's mind the two leading ladies in this bloodbath are ship-shape. (Not getting blood on their clothing, I assume, was the reason nudity was needed … by someone. I'm not sure if it was Lizzie and Bridgette's idea or, Mr. Kass's.)

Today, lesbian-themed films approach the routine. My memory tells me some of the titles: the most recent, DISOBEDIENCE with Rachels Weisz and McAdams; CAROL, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara; the mighty motion picture, THE HOURS, originally from the brilliant mind of Virginia Woolf, providing us with the talents of Streep, Kidman and Moore, not to mention some pretty damn good men in its cast: Ed Harris, to name but one; the unforgettable Lynchian work, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, along with HEAVENLY CREATURES; and way back, when the word “lesbian” or the act thereof could only be hinted at in full-throttled subtly, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, featuring Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacClaine and the “always great” Okie actor, James Garner. This Lillian Hellman yarn might be the most powerful of them all, given its nuanced implications and tragically sad finish.

But there is, as well, a brittle message that comes through in the new LIZZIE that more than suggests some human beings are driven to act out their need for love and revenge due to how they're treated when caught in positions of powerlessness. Andrew Borden was a vile man. He treated his troubled daughter with not even the slightest respect; and, in this film, pushes himself on Bridgette in the cover of her darkened bedroom at the Borden home. Yes, THE BAD GUY! But ironically: a jury of Miss Borden's white, male “peers” acquit since they can't bring themselves to fathom that Lizzie, a female, could hack to death her stepmother and biological father. (Talk about a Hollywood script made in heaven.)

It's ME-TOO time in America.
Copyright © 2018 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.



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