Chloe mentions Kristen from 57 seconds.
Monday, January 22, 2018
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Director Craig William Macneill, himself a Massachusetts native who explored a similarly simmering ambience of patriarchal aggressions with his breakout 2015 debut The Boy, mounts an empowering portrait of Lizzie in what stands as the most compelling presentation of her to date (a television version starring Christina Ricci in 2014 tends to gravitate toward camp value of the case). Employing a formidable duo played by Chloe Sevigny as the titular murderess and Kristen Stewart as the Irish maid who seems to upset the balance of masculine authority in the Borden home, Macneill, working from a sympathetic screenplay by Bryce Kass, turns a lurid melodrama into a compelling testament of the dangers of suppression.
In August of 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts, bullheaded and strong-willed Lizzie Borden (Sevigny) was accused of killing her wealthy father Andrew (Jamey Sheridan) and her step-mother Abby (Fiona Shaw) with a hatchet. Just six months prior, uneducated Irish immigrant Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart) arrived as the Borden’s new maid, forming an empathetic bond with black sheep Lizzie. Older sister Emma (Kim Dickens) doesn’t share her younger sister’s rebellious streak, but it would seem certain hysterical outbursts and episodes stem from certain abuses inflicted upon her independent sister by both social expectations and her lascivious leaning father. As the claustrophobic tension mounts in the Borden household, Lizzie arrives at her infamous breaking point.
The scenario presented is nothing new to cinema. Jean Genet’s famous play The Maids delves into similar intersections of class and gender, while a whole slew of films have explored the tawdry possibilities of murderous lesbian lovers, from Chabrol’s La Ceremonie (1995) to Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994), and Nancy Meckler’s Sister, My Sister (1994), etc. Stewart, as Maggie nee Bridget, decked out with an impressive Irish lilt and a mournful façade so morose it would distress homeless puppies, provides more evidence of an impressive range of vulnerability (the treatment of the Irish is lightly touched upon, but the main point being the class discrepancies allowing them to be treated like animals whose names could be changed with new owners).
Macneill allows Chloe Sevigny to tear into her portrayal of Lizzie, a victim of patriarchal heteronormativity who is fashioned into an anarchic feminist icon here. Sevigny is allowed a wide range of withering responses to her offenders, which lends the film a sort of cathartic release pedal. Although murder isn’t something which can ever be ethically condoned, her situation, including the context and period wherein even women of means had no actual agency, the situation of Lizzie and Bridget is comprehensible.
An impressive supporting cast, including Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare, Fiona Shaw (of De Palma’s The Black Dahlia, 2006) and the selective Jamey Sheridan (The Ice Storm, 1997) churns Lizzie into a mounting orchestra of dread, even as it opens with the bloody corpse of Mrs. Borden before backtracking six months to the arrival of Bridget, the tipping point, it seems, of the family’s demise. Sheridan masters one of the film’s cruelest extended moments involving some pet pigeons who get the short end of the stick. While Lizzie (not to be confused with the 1957 Eleanor Parker film adapted from a Shirley Jackson thriller) manages the impossible in how it presents its title character as (at least partially) a victim of circumstance, it’s likely to be an unpleasant experience for many. But once Macneill allows this dark flower to completely unfurl into its horrifically imagined reenactment, Lizzie becomes a sobering, complex indictment—making it perhaps too difficult for many to engage with its clashing allegiances.
Speaking of difficult: oof, Lizzie. That’s not exactly a bad “oof,” but Craig William Macneill’s somber, arty film is not easy viewing. The film stars Chloë Sevigny as Lizzie Borden, the daughter of a wealthy Fall River, Massachusetts, family who was accused of axing to death her stern father and enabling step-mother in the dog days of summer, 1892. We know the murders are going to happen—bloodied bodies are among the first things the film shows us—so there is an inexorable dread looming. Macneill leans into that dire mood, drenching his film in a faux-Mica Levi score by Jeff Russo, and generally going for a feverish Jackie tone that only sometimes works.
Lizzie isn’t a bad film, but it doesn’t accomplish all that it wants to—and all I wanted it to. We’re never as immersed in its psychological swirl as we should be, and every character in it is either such a creep or a flinching headcase that it’s hard to get our emotional hooks in any of them. But we almost do. Sevigny, who’s been trying to get a Borden project off the ground for years, gives the performance her all, and I quite like the flat, modern affect she brings to the role. I’m not sure it quite syncs up with the rest of the film, but she vibes on her own weird wavelength, convincingly rendering Lizzie as a woman suffocating under the constraints of her life, robbed of her independence bit by bit until she is forced to lash out terribly to protect herself.
But was murder her only option? And was survival her chief motivation? It’s hard to tell if Lizzie plays with those ambiguities deliberately or just doesn’t know what it thinks. Bryce Kass’s screenplay turns Lizzie and her housemaid, Bridget Sullivan, into fledgling lovers, two lonely souls finding each other in a cloistered, airless existence; the Bordens’ austerly appointed home seems to be their entire world. Maybe they feel something genuine for each other, or it could simply be that they are each other’s only means of escape. Denied everything else, perhaps sex in a barn with your maid or your mistress is the only thing you can do.
As played by Kristen Stewart, putting on an effectively minimalist Irish brogue, Bridget is a bit of a cipher. But Stewart and Sevigny have a heady chemistry, one I’d love to see them explore in something less binding than this joyless exercise. The movie does finally get its blood up—and out, and all over the walls—in its final act, Macneill giving us the grand, vengeant horor we’ve been waiting for. It’s a teasing glimpse of what mad bit of patriarchy-destroying camp Lizzie could have been if all those involved weren’t taking everything so damn seriously.
By the end, Lizzie has cramped itself back into dour chamber piece mode. But for a moment there, it soars to near-ludicrous heights, forgetting all its pretension and just putting on a good, wild show. What a funny parallel, that the movie needs these murders to free itself, just as Lizzie did, or might have. She was acquitted, after all.
I’ll confess that, beyond the little nursery rhyme, I didn’t know too much about the story of Lizzie Borden, but it appears that much of what’s ended up in Craig William Macneill’s Lizzie is conjecture. So to catch you up to speed in case you never heard it, here goes: Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.
The resultant mess from this bit of New England gothic folklore are some of the first images in this gripping, well-acted and sharply-written low-budget drama. We then flash back six months, just enough time for Macneill to get audiences … well, I won’t exactly say cheering for the eventual act of violence, but at least understanding.
The Borden House is one of the wealthiest in their small Massachusetts town. Though it’s 1892, Andrew (Jamey Sheridan) has yet to have set up electric lights. “Father prefers it in the dark,” Lizzie says to a gossipy women when she goes out – unescorted! – to the theater one night.
Lizzie, a marvelous role for the abundantly talented Chloe Sevigny, is gasping for breath in that house, but her father is strict and her stepmother (Fiona Shaw) and older sister Emma (Kim Dickens) do little for her desire to be independent. Lizzie suffers from occasional fainting spells, and that’s all the excuse one needs for a woman to be considered unfit to make any of her own decisions. Quite frankly, the women with no illnesses don’t seem to fare much better. “We live in this world and not another,” a character later says about the preposterous idea that two women in love could ever live together on their own.
That woman is the new maid, Bridget (Kristen Stewart). Fresh from Ireland, she’s immediately dubbed “Maggie”, just to keep things simple. Lizzie, however, calls her by her real name, then starts teaching her to read. Just as Bridget gets into the rhythm of her work, Andrew suggests she keep her door open at night to let the air circulate. He proceeds to climb the stairs and, grotesquely, encourages her to “be a sweet girl”. There is no way for Bridget to refuse his advances.
The main stretch of Lizzie is a slow burn, showcasing the many insidious ways the cruel abuses of power (patriarchal power, specifically) can break the human spirit. When Lizzie and Bridget finally share an intimate moment it is one of the few glimpses of tenderness in an otherwise brutal film. But it just spells further doom for these two characters.
If the Borden murders went the way portrayed here, well, you’ve got to hand it to Lizzie for thinking it through. I’m not saying it’s right to hack your father’s face past all recognisability, but if you were going to do it, and in an era before you could watch CSI, her scheme was certainly the way to go. Whether you want to applaud when the deed is finally done is entirely up to you.
One thing’s for certain: Sevigny has been ripe for a juicy role like this for some time. It’s a shame she doesn’t get more opportunities. I noticed that Sevigny herself was the first listed producer for the film. Lizzie Borden, if she were to somehow come back as a Hollywood producer, would probably get a kick out of that.
Written by Bryce Kass, Lizzie is an in-depth behind the scenes look into the life of the Borden family six months before the murder of Andrew Borden (Jamey Sheridan) and his wife Abby (Fiona Shaw). Chloë Sevigny stars as Lizzie Borden, a 32-year-old woman whose every move is monitored and controlled by her father, Andrew. Because of this, Lizzie has lived most of her life as a hermit with little to no interaction with anyone outside of her home. Lizzie forms an unlikely relationship with the new maid, Bridget (Kristen Stewart) with whom Lizzie becomes fascinated. The two lonely women quickly become close and form a plan that will release Lizzie from the control of her father.
Whenever there is a Kristen Stewart film playing at a film festival, I go out of my way to see it. Kristen Stewart is one of my favorite actresses, and I admire her work because she takes on roles that are unique, complicated, and stand out. Lizzie was a project that I read a lot about before seeing it. Considering that there have been a least a dozens of films, tv shows, and plays about Lizzie Borden, I was very curious to see how screenwriter Bryce Kass was going to handle telling a story that has been told several times before. I am happy to report that this film is a refreshing and timely take on the Lizzie Borden story with two award-worthy performances and an ending that will leave you speechless.
There is a lot of speculation as to what happened the day of the Borden murders. The majority of Lizzie runtime is spent showing the type of environment that Lizzie grew up in and how her father treated everyone in her household. Sevigny portrays Lizzie as a smart and strong female whose father controls her every move. He is always talking down to her and trying to keep her quiet.
Director Craig William Macneill does a fantastic job of showing how poorly Lizzie was treated and how that treatment ultimately affected her mental state. It is a refreshing to see this because most other stories about Lizzie Borden only focus on how she went crazy without digging into her backstory and showing examples as to why she may have taken matters into her own hands. The real truth is that no one knows what happened at the Borden residence, but the way that Kass tells this story gives Lizzie a voice that hasn’t been given to Lizzie Borden before.
Lizzie in many ways feels like a stage play. There are only a few sets used and the film’s focus is centered primarily on Lizzie and Margaret with Andrew being portrayed as the film’s villain. While the film feels small, the director, DP, and costume designer create a film that is visually stunning. The entire Borden family mansion is so beautifully captured and I loved the use of candlelight in certain scenes. You can tell that this film was a labor of love for everyone involved which could be a reason why Sevigny not only is the lead but a producer on the film as well.
Regarding the story, the film’s first half focuses on the six months leading up to the murders. This is when we are introduced to Bridget and see the dynamic between all the characters. There is a lot of character and story setup within the first half of the film. We get to see scenes like the one where Andrew sneaks into Bridget’s room late at night as well as several confrontations that occur between him and Lizzie.
These scenes all showcase extremely powerful moments and ones that help depict how the Borden household isn’t as picture perfect as many would be lead to be believed. The second half of the film focuses on the murders and the aftermath. The way that this is handled feels incredibly well-rounded but at the same time makes the first half of film feel a tad too long since there is a lot of build-up to something that you know is going to occur.
While the script and direction are strong, the movie would not be a success if it weren’t for its two leading ladies. Despite taking place in 1892, the film feels relevant. Chloë Sevigny has never been better delivering a raw and haunting performance that will stick with you for days. There are several scenes in which you can see a quiet, intense rage in her eyes yet somehow she holds back from lashing out and showing that rage.
Sevigny does such spectacular work with the dialogue that feels as though it was written for her. She has several great one-liners that are perfectly delivered. I love the way that Sevigny presents Lizzie Borden to the audience as well. She is shown as someone who isn’t afraid to go against the status quo and stand up for her beliefs. This character is grounded in reality and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Sevigny turns Lizzie Borden into a very complex character and one that I believe a lot of women and men will certainly get behind.
Kristen Stewart’s performance as Bridget Sullivan is just another incredible performance to add to the actress’ constantly growing filmography. The role of Bridget is unlike anything that we have seen Stewart tackle before and is I believe the first time that she does an Irish accent. I swear that If you close your eyes when Bridget is on-screen talking, you would think that Saoirse Ronan was talking. Stewart embraces the material and dives into this world that Macneill and Kass have created. The intimate scenes with Stewart and Sevigny are ripe with passion and emotion. The chemistry between these two actresses was second to none.
While I would love to go into detail about the way that Macneill and Kass setup the murders, I won’t reveal too much because I don’t want to spoil these scenes for anyone. Let’s just say that the way that the murders occur are shocking and are presented in a way that is much different than you’re anticipating. Again, its hard to talk about without spoilers but the murder scenes are some of the best moments of the film and are astonishingly compelling to watch.
All in all, Lizzie is a refreshing new spin on the Lizzie Borden story that will speak to a modern audience. Macneill and Kass have created a film that is haunting, beautiful, and heartbreaking. Chloë Sevigny has never been better, and Kristen Stewart shows us once again why she truly is one of the best actresses working today. While I don’t know if horror fans will like the art house take on this story, I do believe that many will enjoy seeing a film that shows a whole new side of Lizzie Borden that the world has never seen before.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Lizzie is an 8 out of 10.
Director Craig William Macneill’s “Lizzie” has another theory. The director re-imagines the murderess (Chloë Sevigny) as a powerless victim who literally slays the patriarchy. It’s a simple story made to rouse modern hearts, and the performances and cinematography are so good, the film nearly pulls off the trick.
Macneill and screenwriter Bryce Kass play their hands boldly. Andrew isn’t just a miser, which he was (the Bordens were locally infamous for refusing to upgrade to electric lights); he’s also a sexist, homophobic rapist. And Lizzie is a lesbian in love with their housemaid Bridget (Kristen Stewart), an Irish immigrant who enters the film in a tidy brown dress looking as helpless as a little bird. She’s even got tiny feathers in her hat.
She and Stewart both have the strong, pointed jaws of people who aren’t as fragile as they first appear. Early on, Lizzie has a ferocious mouth, sniping at a mean girl who teases her for still using candlelight, “Are you an Edison?” That Lizzie vanishes after the first half-hour and the two lovers eventually go near-mute, which underlines the film’s ideas about female passivity, but also clashes with the headstrong girl we first met. Stewart’s maid is more straightforward and practical, the kind of character who gets filled with life just from the look in Stewart’s eyes. Unlike Lizzie, she affords herself no hopes for the future. On the day of the murder, she testified she was outside cleaning windows — which is true, given Bridget’s recorded testimony, and a perfect metaphor for the all-seeing servant who sees everything more clearly than the people inside.
Noah Greenburg’s cinematography is stunning. He frames his actresses with the house, shooting them in shallow focus behind windows and railings to make them look like prisoners. In this airless, dim darkness, they rarely look free.
In “Lizzie,” we come to know Borden’s inner turmoil, not only by her periodic “spells” but also in the way that the camera captures a bewitching Chloë Sevigny. She’s often off-center in the frame, or reflected in mirrors, or out of focus in the foreground as she imagines what’s happening far behind her.
Screenwriter Bryce Kass (“Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs”) and director Craig William Macneill (2015’s “The Boy”), like everyone else who has tackled this story, are left to their own conjectures and theories as to the how and the why behind the murder of Borden’s father and stepmother, but they’ve turned the puzzle pieces into a haunting, horrifying romance.
Six months before Andrew Borden (Jamey Sheridan) and his wife Abby (Fiona Shaw) faced that fatal ax — and despite the famous rhyme, each received far fewer than 40 blows — housemaid Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart) reports for duty. While most of the household refers to her as “Maggie” (the generic name given to all Irish servants, much as all Pullman porters once answered to “George”), Lizzie (Sevigny) immediately calls her by her given name.
Right away, there’s an electricity between them; as Lizzie reaches out to adjust one of Bridget’s hairpins, it’s clear that there’s already a connection. The unmarried Lizzie tests her father’s patience with her willfulness, daring to go to the theater unescorted and constantly questioning his authority. (Being “sent away” for her infractions is a constant threat being dangled over her.) Andrew’s a monster — he visits Bridget’s room in the middle of the night to rape her on multiple occasions — and he’s upset over a series of anonymous threatening notes that have come to the house.
Sevigny and Stewart are intensely affecting as women of different stations who are both nonetheless choked by the demands of the patriarchy; they also create a palpable erotic tension, particularly early on when Bridget is buttoning up Lizzie’s blouse for dinner. Their performances are powerfully supported by the extraordinary ensemble, which also includes Jeff Perry (“Scandal”) as the family attorney.
Based on the true story of Lizzie Borden, a Massachusetts heiress who killed her wealthy father and stepmother in 1892, Craig William Macneill’s feature debut recreates the story in the mode of gothic psychological horror. Starring Chloe Sevigny as the titular anti-hero and Kristen Stewart as an Irish housemaid who may have conspired with her to carry out the murders, Lizzie is, at best, a powerful showcase for the two actors.
With its strong performances and sensationalistic premise and execution, Lizzie may receive some modest commercial play, both in the US and in overseas territories.
Just as Sevigny is full of steely gazes and brittle quips, Stewart is beautifully anguished; her kohl-eyed face revealing years of sorrow.
A sensitive and stylish take on the legend.
The elegantly lurid but compelling Lizzie, written by Bryce Kass, directed by Craig William Macneill (The Boy) and produced by Chloe Sevigny in her best form in the title role, carves out of the raw material a suitably 2018 version, befitting of the #MeToo generation. In their hands, Lizzie becomes a study of secret female lovers (Kristen Stewart co-stars as the household maid Borden falls for) joining forces to fight back against an abusive patriarch (Jamey Sheridan) and his enabling spouse (Fiona Shaw). So it's empowering and respectful when delivering the tender love scenes between the women but also ready to go full-on horror-movie trashy, in a good way, with jump scares, close-up shots of faces stabbed to a pulp and a naked, blood-splattered Sevigny stalking stealthily across sun-dappled vintage floorboards.
In 1892, Lizzie Borden stood trial for the murders of her father and step-mother in Fall River, Massachusetts. No one knows for sure why Andrew and Abigail Borden were murdered in their home one August morning. Many theories have surfaced over the years, ranging from Lizzie’s supposed insanity to some sort of financial dispute.
This new film bucks the traditional horror route in telling the story of the ill-fated Bordens. Instead, “Lizzie” is, at its core, a drama of a family under siege. Chloë Sevigny stars as 32-year-old maid, Lizzie. Her father Andrew (Jamey Sheridan), tries to control his daughter, although she frequently finds ways to subvert him. Her sister Emma (Kim Dickens) is much more willing to appease his overbearing tendencies. Lizzie strikes up a friendship with their new maid, Bridget Sullivan—known to the family by the generic Irish name Maggie—(Kristen Stewart). Their friendship eventually blossoms into more. Abby Borden (Fiona Shaw) is a step-mother who never speaks against her husband, even when it seems she doesn’t agree with him.
While the film is more a drama than anything else, director Craig William Macneill weaves in gripping tension and sensuality. Upon first meeting, Lizzie adjusts a pin in Bridget’s hair, and already the connection between the two crackles in the air like electricity. When Lizzie and Emma’s maternal uncle John arrives at the family home, you can sense something is off long before anyone ever suggests it. There is so much unspoken throughout the film, and because it doesn’t need to be said. Entire conversations can be communicated with a simple glance, a peek through a window, hands tying an apron.
Perhaps what heightens the tension is the fact that it maintains Victorian-era chastity throughout most of the film. Macneill doesn’t need to show what happens when Andrew makes late-night visits to Bridget’s room. Scenes between Lizzie and Bridget are captivating in their intensity, conveying heat and longing through brushing a hand, or passing a note.
Chloë Sevigny shines in this leading performance. She commands attention in every scene, giving Lizzie Borden depth and strength. She does this while also giving the audience reasons to sympathize with her.
Kristen Stewart is also very good as Bridget. Her quiet, mournful expressions are well-suited to an Irish immigrant, alone in a new country, far from her family.
The film is full of great performances. Jamey Sheridan and Fiona Shaw are great as the doomed parents. Denis O’Hare is exceptionally creepy as Uncle John. Kim Dickens plays nice as much more submissive sister Emma.
Bryce Kass extensively researched the many theories and legends of the Borden murders. While the idea of a relationship between Lizzie and Bridget isn’t new (it was first introduced in a novel by Ed McBain), Kass gives the youngest Borden depth. Where others focus on her “spells” as signs of deep and deadly mental illness, Kass writes a woman who challenges the world around her. She questions convention and stands up to the men that want to believe they serve her best interests.
This is a film that takes its time. It isn’t in a hurry, but doesn’t dawdle either. The cinematography, the sparse score, the costume design, everything comes together to craft the confined and isolated life of a wealthy family under the control of an overbearing patriarch.
“Lizzie” is looking for distribution, but will hopefully be in theaters later this year.
Lizzie is a psychological thriller based on the story of Lizzie Borden and the axe murder of the Borden family, directed by Craig William Macneill and edited by Abbi Jutkowitz, starring Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart. Sevigny and Stewart are definitely at their best in the film with great characters and occasionally sharp dialogue, which is quiet, tense, and slow to build. But when it builds, it gets downright scary. It’s not surprising to add that Lizzie is pretty violent, and as I was thinking about my take on the film, I wondered if seeing a woman involved in this level of carnage (in a non-pulpy sense) was unconsciously affecting my opinion. It’s going to take a while before I really have a clear opinion, but I do know this: Lizzie ended up being a challenging and timely depiction of female rage.
Next Best Picture
"Lizzie" is one of those films that feels so perfectly timed to the #MeToo movement that it's almost impossible to view it in any other context. It contains two very phenomenal performances from its headlining ladies and presents an interesting story even if historical liberties are taken to show us what may (Or may not) have happened revolving around Lizzie Borden in 1892. For those unfamiliar with the story, they will find it both shocking and empowering. The film itself suffers from a few minor faults but as an exploration of one woman rebelling against the patriarchal society in her life, it's a bold and bloody story.
It's August 4th, 1982 in Fall River, Massachusetts. Two brutal murders have been committed within the Borden household. One is Andrew Borden (Jamey Sheridan), the patriarch who rules over the family name with an iron fist and the other is Abby Borden (Fiona Shaw), Andrew's second wife. Their daughter, Lizzie Borden (Chloë Sevigny) is shocked as she calls their house servant Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart) to call the police for help. The film "Lizzie" takes us back six months before the murders occurred to show us Lizzie's relationship with her father, step-mother, uncle (Denis O'Hare) and her unique relationship with Bridget. All of these relationships play a role in piecing together just who exactly murdered the Bordens on that fateful day.
Lizzie is not to be messed with. As played by Chloë Sevigny, she is strong, intelligent and yes, definitely mad both mentally and at all the men in her life (In this case, her father and uncle). However, "Lizzie" explores what pushed this upstanding woman in society to break and possibly commit the murders which she was never officially charged with. Her father is portrayed to be the biggest asshole known to man (Or one could say, a stand-in for all man) who talks down to his daughter, forces himself upon women and is as cold as the film itself. This is all done expertly well by Jamey Sheridan (Who also played a great asshole type character in "Spotlight") who makes it look effortless in getting us to despise him that when Lizzie finally does lash out against him in order to reclaim her inheritance and get her revenge for a lifetime of abuse, we are fully onboard with her and Bridget. Which leads me to Kristen Stewart. Pulling off an Irish accent and baring herself both of body and soul, I believe this could possibly be the best performance I have seen Stewart give yet. The film may belong to Chloë Sevigny but somehow Stewart is able to sneak up and steal the entire film from behind her. And when they are both on screen at the same time? The results are magic, as their impulses, confusion, and intimacy carries the film's emotional weight.
But in Lizzie, director Craig William Macneill (The Boy, Channel Zero) and screenwriter Bryce Kass offer a different take on the still-unsolved killings that totally rewrites Lizzie’s narrative, casting her as a righteous heroine instead of an evil murderess. With superb performances from stars Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, this intimate drama serves as a fierce response to abuse and oppression and a seductive peek into the inner life of one of history’s most notorious killers.
In late 19th century Massachusetts, the well-to-do Borden family hires a live-in maid named Bridget (Stewart), an Irish woman with a big heart but little formal education. Lizzie (Sevigny), the family’s strong-willed youngest daughter, bonds with Bridget almost instantly, and their relationship blossoms from kind pleasantries into something much more sensual, much to the dismay of Lizzie’s domineering father Andrew (Jamey Sheridan). Meanwhile, Andrew is having business problems due to a railroad crisis, and after receiving some threatening letters, he begins entertaining the idea of putting his scumbag brother (Denis O’Hare) in charge of his finances because he doesn’t trust that his daughters are smart or capable enough to handle things themselves. But it’s not just Andrew’s financial schemes that grants Lizzie the moral high ground to eventually kill him – he’s also a serial rapist. By the time the two heroines strip naked to carry out the murders, Andrew has done plenty to establish himself as someone the world would be better without.
Sevigny is stellar in the title role, calmly rebelling against accepted norms and dishing out absolutely withering disses to high society brats and her oppressive family members alike. Stewart, an actress who’s long been underestimated due to her Twilight franchise past, adopts an Irish accent that was spot-on to my ear, and her connection with Sevigny is largely in the eyes – furtive glances between the two fly more than Lizzie’s beloved pet birds, who eventually factor into the story themselves. Both Sheridan and O’Hare bring a palpable sense of menace to their characters, playing villains that are almost cartoonish in their cruelty. Their presence, an unnerving score, a slowly-zooming camera, and the creaky, period-appropriate house that the filmmakers shot in all provide a suffocating claustrophobia for the women, who long for nothing more than to break free from their metaphorical chains.
While the film’s eventual depiction of the murders is especially brutal, the fact that it depicts a woman fighting back against her oppressors and the catharsis that comes with it is another element that feels directly tied to our current post-Weinstein climate. “We live in this world, not another,” Bridget hopelessly tells Lizzie in one scene. And though they do ultimately reside in a man’s world, Lizzie Borden’s refusal to accept her dispiriting status quo is something that – though extreme in her execution – provides an inspiring message for those who may find themselves trapped in similar circumstances today. Fascinating and ferocious, Lizzie takes a legend hardened by history and blows it up from the inside, forcing the viewer to pick up the pieces and recontextualize this figure in a whole new light.
You’ve been attached to play Lizzie Borden for a decade as the project underwent various incarnations. Can you talk about the long journey to make this story into a feature film?
Oh God, it’s so long and involved. [Laughs] It began the first time I visited the bed and breakfast in Fall River [the house where the murders took place is now a bed-and-breakfast/museum]. I was driving through Massachusetts with my boyfriend at the time, we were going to stay at the house and then go to Salem, for a spooky Halloween/romantic weekend getaway. As soon as I walked into that house, it was a moment that crystallized, and I knew I had to play this person. I felt so empathetic to her plight. Her story is so fascinating, because there are so many different theories and it’s still unsolved. The world has been fascinated by her for more than a hundred years now. She still inspires so many books, films, operas, and so many other things. She’s iconic as this misfit heroine. That was the moment that I realized I needed to do this.
This is obviously a passion project. How did you begin the process of turning it into a movie?
I was living with my friend Bryce Kass in Los Angeles as roommates. He was a struggling writer so I asked him to write it. He wrote an outline, and there was so much exposition, and we learned so many things––such as the police were at a picnic so many miles away. There were so many amazing details we could put in this story that it was hard to figure out how we wanted to do it. I was on Big Love at the time and very close to Peter Friedlander [a producer on the HBO series], so I took it to him, and he said we should pitch it to HBO. At that time—this was 10 years ago—they’d have given us more money and exposure and more people would see it on HBO than if it we made it as an indie film. That made more sense to me, you know? We pitched it, and it was there for a while. They held onto the material for a very long time. Bryce had to rewrite it as a miniseries. It was at various times a two-part miniseries and a three-part miniseries. Then they put us on the backburner over there and then picked us up again and had so many directors attached. In the end it just didn’t work out for us. We couldn’t pitch it to other networks for a variety of reasons that I had no idea about because I was so green to this whole process. The next time I’m going to have a lawyer that holds my hand through every step because it’s totally insane.
But your endurance eventually paid off.
Eventually, we had to reconceive it back to a feature and try to produce it independently ourselves. We set up a lot of meetings and sent it out to a lot of directors. I was attached and Kristen [Stewart] was kind of attached, so it’s hard to go to visionary directors who are working on their own projects when you already have actors attached. We watched Craig Macneill’s films and had conversations with him. He was actually from a place very near Fall River and had a very personal connection to Lizzie, so we decided to go with him. We found some independent financiers and set up some foreign sales and put it together. It came together really quickly.
You were born in Massachusetts, which is Lizzie Borden country. When did you first become aware of her?
I first became aware of her with the rhyme in probably junior high, or maybe I was younger. I didn’t know much about her. I was out one night for Halloween in the city, and one of my best friends was dressed as her for Halloween, so I delved into it.
What was the appeal of her story for you?
First of all, she was so misunderstood and didn’t have any real outlet. I was very empathetic to that. I wouldn’t say she’s crazy in any way, shape, or form. I just think she was disturbed. Playing a subtly disturbed person was something I’d never done before, and that interested me as an actor.
What research did you do?
I stayed at the house in Fall River several times. I went once on my own, once with Bryce, and once with the friend who had dressed up as Lizzie for Halloween. [Laughs] We went to her final resting place in Fall River and walked around Bedford. I went back with Craig and our cinematographer and art director to do more research at the Fall River Historical Society. It was very helpful in creating a fully realized version of her. We saw her objects, and they gave us permission to use a photo of her mother in the locket. I’ve read almost every book about her, and there are a lot. I actually read about different women at that time—even Emily Dickinson. There’s a great bio about her life and being imprisoned in her house, which gave me insight into what life was like in that period. My research was pretty extensive.
You really exhibited palpable rage when you were swinging the ax. How do you prepare psychologically to play a scene like that?
I’d prepared for that for 10 years now. I was naked in that scene, and now I’m sleepless every night. [Laughs] I’m 43 years old, and I can’t believe I did that. It’s not that I regret it because I wanted it to be very carnal and shocking, but now I feel pretty vulnerable, in all honesty. It’s my opinion and the writers’ that she did it and there are a lot of people who argue that she didn’t. There’s a theory that she went into an epileptic state of shock.
Lizzie has a romantic relationship with Bridget, the live-in maid, played by Kristen Stewart. How fact-based is this?
That’s not very fact-based. There are a lot of accounts of her having affairs with other women, especially Nance O’Neill, who was an actress. There are theories that that’s why she and Emma, her sister, didn’t speak to each other for the last years of their lives. We took liberty with that. There is evidence that Bridget was in cahoots and had to have been in the house [when the murders occurred]. Maybe those ladies did have one of the friendships that some women during that time period had, that were more intimate because they didn’t have anyone else. I think that after spending time in the house, we determined there was no way Bridget couldn’t have been in cahoots.
It’s a film that’s time has come in more than one way. Both Lizzie and Bridget were abused by a man in the film. How do you think the film will resonate in today’s climate when the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are calling out unacceptable behavior by men?
Since all of this has happened recently, well, I mean I’ve always thought of this film as a smack in the face of the patriarchy. It’s extreme, and it’s violent and it smashes the face of the patriarchy. That was how I pitched it 10 years ago. Putting more women in power is the only way to protect young girls. I think men will always abuse them and the more they’re called out and held accountable the less likely they’ll be to act untowardly to women––so women need to be in more positions of power. That’s the only way to shift the dynamics. There’s more of a weight and importance to films now. Even like Beatriz at Dinner [her film which premiered at Sundance in 2017], which is about so many different things now. I’m really lucky to be a part of films that reflect what’s happening in today’s society.
Click on pic for full view.
Bryce Kass: Thanks snow leopard. Thank you my lioness.
That. Is. A. Wrap :)
Photo was shared by 'Lizzie' screenwriter, Bryce Kass.
Friday, January 19, 2018
Kristen didn't attend this year's Sundance.
However, in support of her and her film, we have posted the Sundance premiere.
We are excited to see it!
Media/ Fan Photos
Video of the post-screening Q&A.
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|Photo Credit: Destro Films Instagram|
Photo: (L to R) Jeff Perry, Denis O'Hare and Chloe Sevigny. at the Variety Studios.
Sevigny made the trip to Sundance for the premiere of her drama “Lizzie,” about Lizzie Borden, who was accused of murdering her father and stepmother in 1892 Massachusetts. Sevigny co-produced the movie, having long been fascinated with Borden’s life.
Kristen Stewart plays Borden’s maid, Bridget Sullivan, who is believed to have had a romantic relationship with her. “I’m such a fan of Kristen,” Sevigny said. “She’s such a firecracker. I’m so honored. She said, ‘Chloe, I want to do this for you.’ There are so many movies I’ve done supporting other women and their performances are stellar.”
She said their chemistry came naturally. “What are you kidding? I think there’s a mutual admiration. I think we both really identify with an outlaw, misfit character.”
As for their love scenes in the film, Sevigny laughed: “There was a little bit of steam,” she said. “I wish there was more.”
Video from the cast interview
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Thursday, January 18, 2018
“I wanted to be an actor before I fell in love with music,” Jett, 59, explains in an interview with Variety. “And ‘Cabaret’ was really the combining of the two. Seeing that, with its ’20s flapper girl decadence and the crazy makeup, around the same time I started wanting to play guitar, it all sort of melded together into this sort of slightly decadent-looking vibe — I mean, I didn’t quite have that at 13, but it was developing.”
Her career path veered decidedly to music, but she hasn’t been a stranger to the screen. The camera loved her from the moment she stepped out in red leather in 1981 for “I Love Rock ’n Roll,” one of the first true MTV-bred hits. Six years later, she took the lead opposite Michael J. Fox in Paul Schrader’s “Light of Day,” and she’s occasionally turned up since in places as unexpected as “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Her pioneering 1970s ways were immortalized for a new generation with Kristen Stewart’s portrayal in 2010’s “The Runaways,” which Jett executive produced.
Now she’s playing herself in “Bad Reputation,” a documentary that premieres at Sundance on Jan. 22, preceded by a live gig at the Park City film festival Jan. 20.
It was preordained that the film would be named after her 1980s signature song and album, but the title is a bit of a misnomer: If there’s any rocker who doesn’t require much image rehabilitation at this point, it’s the nearly universally loved Jett. “Bad Reputation” is really part of a victory lap, coming on the heels of not just that biopic about her seminal all-girl band but her 2015 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That’s not to say the new doc feels unnecessary: As producer Carianne Brinkman says, “It’s wonderful that the Runaways’ story was told, but I didn’t think we were done telling a story about Joan Jett. I think it’s a really important story, especially for young girls to see, and also young boys.” The goal may be a tip-off that the movie’s story is less about decadence than, in Jett’s mind, “perseverance.”
Brinkman is the daughter of Kenny Laguna, a writer-producer-manager whose run of 1960s hits has long since been eclipsed by his nearly four-decade partnership with Jett. Beyond playing up the historicity of one of the first and foremost female rockers, Brinkman sensed there was a sort of buddy movie as well in the relationship between Jett and her dad: “Their banter is great, and I thought it would be entertaining for people to see that too.” A documentary wasn’t an easy sell, though, at least to Jett. “She’s an incredibly humble person, and somewhat private,” Brinkman says. “So it was kind of a reluctant getting-on-board.”
It’s oddly hard for Jett to be the center of attention offstage. “I find it very difficult to say, ‘Oh yeah, people are taking notice of me now!’” she says, having been coaxed to say just such a thing. “It just sounds weird and not humble. I find it hard to toot my own horn too loud, unless it’s in conjunction with something else, like the Runaways, or saying ‘the Blackhearts.’ But I can’t talk about me like that.”
So, leave it to her documenters. Kevin Kerslake has been one of the biggest video-directing names ever since he helmed three Nirvana clips in the early ’90s. He signed on at the end of 2016. “That’s not a lot of time to make a doc, especially one that has that kind of historical scope,” Kerslake says. “But we just put the foot to the floor.” He’s an unabashedly admiring chronicler: “I’m a huge punk-rock nut, and her roots tug on that sensibility. I also wanted to get at her stepping outside of the music world and having an impact on social justice and animal rights.” But at the core of it, he, like everyone, was taken by “the arc of a young girl, and then a young woman, cutting a path in a man’s world throughout her entire career, as a sort of feminist manifesto in the flesh.”
Kerslake was fully on board with doing a film that would be more about Jett’s career than her private life. There’s a vintage interview snippet early in “Bad Reputation,” “when she was with the Runaways and was asked about relationships and sex, and she says right then and there — as a teenage girl — that if she got into that, then from that point on every inquiry would really be colored by that answer. So, for me, it was sort of a relief. I don’t care who people sleep with or love as long as they’re doing right in the world. Plus, she’s just a workhorse, so I don’t think there’s a lot of time for relationships, in a way” — a point Jett addresses toward the end of the doc, a bit wistfully but with no great regrets.
There is an on-screen love affair, of sorts, with Laguna. “A lot of people say we’re like a married couple,” says Jett. “Soul mates sounds corny, but it feels right. We definitely connected on a mission. We’re not alike at all, but on some things we totally come together. We push each other’s buttons, and he tests and pushes me, and it’s engaging intellectually as well. It can go from very friendly to explosive and then two seconds later be fine, though it’s probably traumatic for the people around us,” she laughs.
Interviewees in the doc include onetime co-star Fox, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! speaks to Jett being one of the first to call and offer support when she came out as transgender. Miley Cyrus talks about finding inspiration in musical lust: “I think there’s this thing that women are supposed to act like we don’t like to f**k too.” Kathleen Hanna touches on Jett’s personal mentorship of members of the riot grrrl generation. Stewart recalls the instruction she got from Jett about how to look more convincing as a rock guitarist: “Pussy to the wood, Kristen!” (“You had to be there” is all Jett will say of this particular inclusion.) And on the other end of the spectrum, there’s a worshipful cameo from unlikely mega-fan U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.
Jett became a big pop star in the ’80s, of course, but she chuckles at how little that was worth to some. “I learned in the film that Ian MacKaye from Fugazi had no idea who I was,” she says, “but once he knew I was the person that produced the Germs, because that was a big [band] to him, then he knew who I was. It’s just so funny. It’s why you can’t be a smart-ass and assume that everybody knows who you are, because depending on what world you travel in, you might not make a dent. So just be humble and be happy you’re making a living doing what you love.”
Given Jett’s extreme role-model status, the film’s guest list naturally tips to appreciative women. She values the new climate of outspokenness that might make things easier on younger generations. “The situations women and girls find themselves in daily is something I’ve dealt with since before being in a band was even a conscious thought in my head,” she says. “I applaud the women who have found the strength to speak out about demeaning, vicious, sometimes violent experiences and a misogyny that is pretty much baked into American society. In my experience, very little has changed on that plain in 40 years. Now that attention is focused on these entrenched problems, let’s deal with it at its roots and not let this moment slip through our fingers.”
Kerslake tries to tilt the movie’s climax toward Jett’s activism for animals and the environment. But career-wise, there’s another obvious happy ending. In 2014, she’s seen fronting the surviving membership of Nirvana at that band’s Hall of Fame induction, with Krist Novoselic knocking the Hall for not already having her in. The following year, she made it. “Part of me thinks that [Nirvana members] saying it on TV pressured them into it. Krist was saying, ‘What are you guys, nuts?’ So he embarrassed them into it.” She pauses, chuckling. “That’s my humbleness again.”
As it turns out, humility and swagger aren’t mutually exclusive.
'Bad Reputation' premieres at Sundance on 22 January and will screen throughout the film festival.
Dir: Craig William Macneill
Camera: ARRI Alexa SXT
Lens: Vintage Cooke Speed Panchros
Macneill: “I had hoped to shoot on film since we were doing a period film, but, unfortunately, we could not for a variety of reasons. However, our DP (Noah Greenberg) and I know the Alexa well, and felt comfortable embracing digital on this, particularly given the tight 23-day shooting schedule. I didn’t want the film to look too sharp and crisp, though, which is a quality often associated with shooting in digital formats. I wanted there to be a soft, painterly quality to the image. Noah and I used vintage Cooke Speed Panchro lenses on a portion of a TV series we shot in 2016 and we were thrilled with the soft, immersive quality that they gave us, and knew that they would fit our desired look for “Lizzie.” Our plan was to keep the light neutral and clean with an emphasis on naturalism throughout. Our daytime interiors are dim and were motivated by soft window light; our nighttime interiors were often lit only by candles and flame which also allows for pools of darkness that obscure the frame. We wanted those pockets of darkness, many of which take up much of the frame, to feel textured and rich. We didn’t want to expose for safety and then ‘print down’ in post. In the end, we were happy with what we were seeing with the combination of the Alexa SXT and the Cooke Speed Panchro lenses.”