Lifetime Whacks With Lizzie’s Ax

Over two years ago Lifetime looked at its Emmys hopes and dreams, threw caution to the wind, and told the tale of notorious murder suspect, Lizzie Borden, who may have killed her father and stepmother on a hot Massachusetts afternoon with an ax.

I’ve long felt, terror aside, that if Lizzie Borden did kill her father, I didn’t particularly blame her, and the film attempts make the case that Andrew Borden was an emotionally abusive in the ass. (He was so miserly that the very wealthy family didn’t have indoor plumbing, which is just the kind of thing you splurge on when its available to you.) It also suggests that Andrew was whacked because he wouldn’t let Lizzie go to a party, or loosen the purse strings.

Lizzie went to the party, because in Lifetime’s version of history, Lizzie is a young woman of loose morals. She lies, she drinks, she’s a lot of fun! But Lizzie may not have been so wild, and in Lifetime’s attempts to make the movie fun, the film feels forced and historically inaccurate. (Lizzie and her sister Emma do not seem to suffer enough from the day’s fashions or heatwave; the end credits state that Emma left town and never came back, but the sisters lived together in town until their deaths.) It is at least a little scary—the story of Borden was the  first murder story to keep me awake at night, and the film’s gruesome hacking scenes make my especially house (built in 1890!) eerie.

Lizzie is played by Christina Ricci, who seems more glamorous than the historical figure, and Clea Duvall, Generation X’s Kristen Stewart, is Emma. Gregg Henry is Hosea Bolton, the district attorney, and like his role in Victim of Love, Bolton is the only one around with any brains. Unfortunately, Henry is far less dynamic here than he was in Victim of Love, instead squiring around town with his trademark Huntzberger squint.

Of course, one Murderino‘s quibbles about a Lifetime movie does not speak for everyone. Lifetime steamrolled ahead with the tribulations of poor, insane, murderous Lizzie Borden, airing the eight-episode, limited series The Chronicles of Lizzie Borden. (Duvall returns, and we all pretend that Emma never left town forever.)

Lizzie Borden Took An Ax is one of the few Lifetime movies streaming on Netflix.

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