Was Lifetime's "Lizzie Borden Took An Ax" Everything You Hoped It Would Be?

This week's hard hitting look at the Acclaimed-by-No-One, No-One's-Waiting-Up-on-Oscar-Nomination-Morning Lifetime movie, "Lizzie Borden Took an Ax." And by hard hitting, I mean FILL UP YOUR GLASSES AND LET THE DRINKING GAME BEGIN.
Publish date:
January 27, 2014
TV, murder, Lifetime movie, gore, lizzie borden, excellent acting, clea duvall, christina ricci

I had the privilege of visiting the XOJane offices a few weeks ago while I was in New York City. Over cookies the size of your head from Levain, Madeline and Emily and a few other staffers chatted about college, cooking, Gilmore Girls, and Rebel Wilson. While having a serious, high minded conversation about whether Melissa McCarthy was being pigeonholed in her current sitcom by common tropes about fat women, Emily said something like, "Hey, you seem to have a really critical eye for this, you should be writing Entertainment articles."

And that, peoples, brings us to this week's hard hitting look at the Acclaimed-by-No-One, No-One's-Waiting-Up-on-Oscar-Nomination-Morning movie, "Lizzie Borden Took an Ax". And by hard hitting, I mean FILL UP YOUR GLASSES AND LET THE DRINKING GAME BEGIN.

I'll admit it, my expectations were set higher than last week's "Flowers in the Attic" revival. The cast alone was enough to make me tune in, but a childhood obsession with true crime novels made this absolutely irresistible. I spent some part of my life living nearby to Fall River, MA, knowing people from the area, visiting some of the buildings there, and proximity has always made me a curious cat.

I was, like many readers revealed last week, grossly excited for Saturday's showing. And yet, while all the pieces were in place, the movie wasn't as engaging as I'd hoped. It dragged through the least exciting aspect of the entire story: the trial. The movie suffered from trying too hard to be a Baz Luhrman piece, shifting between the B-List music choices for The Craft's Original Soundtrack and a generic scary movie score.

On one hand, I liked that moments of silence were allowed to actually happen, a nod to the actors ability to know what to do with a second or two without dialogue. On the other hand, the movie's pacing was just.... well, I watched without commercials. I might have welcomed them as quick breaks for Red Bull, caffeine or speed breaks to keep me awake (just kidding. I would never, ever drink Red Bull).

In the last comparison I'll make to Flowers in the Attic, it's worth noting that characters in this week's movie were far more believable and moderate. You know. For a movie about a 200 year old crime about a teen harlot with detachment disorder and no sense of grandiosity (Just saying, it's not like there weren't knives or scissors in the house, an AX?!?!). Characters weren't one-sided, or branded as evil or good. The nuances of Lizzie's parents were appreciated. OMG AM I REALLY BEING CRITICAL OF THIS MOVIE?

Chrstina Ricci was completely competent playing a sociopath. While the movie doesn't ever really explicitly state that Lizzie Borden was guilty until the end, what they do make clear is that she's a woman completely detached. She played the whole role with the slightest sense of thoughtful glee. Christina Ricci better pray she's never actually on trial because her wide eyed bit just reads guilty. And is it just me, or do you prefer the less waify version of Christina Ricci?

Clea Duvall is one of my favorite actresses, and I found myself wondering what would have happened if the actors had been reversed in their roles. As it was, Duvall was wildly underused. I wondered what else she could have been doing with this time... taking a vacation? Writing a book? Solving world hunger? Drinking mai tais? Really, washing her hair would have been a more productive effort.

While I'm a fan of true crime, I am not a fan of gore, so there were a few ax scenes that were a bit much for me. Perhaps the point was to match the grandiosity of the crime, but the vicosity of the blood flying back on the ax was stomach turning. The best acting in the entire movie is encapsulated in the final scene, in which Lizzie finally reveals her crime to her sister, and you see Clea Duvall's reaction.

And that's it. That's literally all I have to offer. I suspect that we were a bit overambitious in our excitement, and that the various themed party food y'all made eclipsed the joy of the movie itself. xoJaners... what did you think? Did this adaptation make the cut?