If you were to transcribe the new Lifetime movie Lizzie Borden Took An Ax, no matter what utensil you used, your hand would just involuntarily write MUAHAHAHA over and over again for page after page. Oh, except in the middle you would just write ZZZZZZZZZZZZ, because that was when all the dull courtroom drama happened. So it was an evil drawn-out cackle with a nap in the middle. That’s the blurb you should use if you want to quote me.
The movie tells the true story of Lizzie Borden, one of the most notorious women in history, who was tried and acquitted of killing her father and stepmother in 1892 Massachusetts. Let me reiterate that she was acquitted. Of course that’s no fun at all, so Lifetime just took her guilt as a fact and ran with it. To be fair, that’s how legend and pop culture have immortalized Lizzie already, as you’ve probably heard in the rhyme “Lizzie Borden took an ax / And gave her mother 40 whacks / When she saw what she had done / She gave her father 41.” In reality it was 18 or 19 whacks for the stepmother and 11 for the father. Lifetime at least keeps that part accurate, even if their promos don’t.
The movie starts off with an ambiguous depiction of the murder itself, as Lizzie seductively eats a pear and spies on a mysterious stranger in her backyard to the sound of a guitar being murdered. That’s what the music’s like the entire movie. Just various innocent instruments being murdered, probably with an ax, and every once in a while an anachronistic rock song will play. This movie really thinks it’s Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and I kind of love it.
Lizzie finds her father’s dead body and lets out a scream that would make final girls everywhere jealous. And so it begins. Portraying Lizzie as a creepy psychopath seems to be the intent, and in that case Christina Ricci totally nails it. And why wouldn’t she? She’s been playing creepy psychopaths — or at least emo chicks — her entire life. I imagine them pitching her the idea and her confidently replying, “I got this.”
Flashback to Lizzie and her family leaving church and her father complaining about his daughters being spinsters. Lifetime seems to hint a couple of times that Lizzie likes the ladies, but I don’t know what her sister Emma’s (Clea Duvall) excuse is. As they walk home, Emma laments that they’ll have to eat mutton again, since it’s been making them sick, and all I could think of was this. Later on it’s suggested that Lizzie was actually poisoning them. DUN DUN DUNNNN.
At dinner Lizzie gets up from the table WITHOUT BEING EXCUSED, which I’m pretty sure was punishable by death in 1892. And so we start to understand that Lizzie doesn’t have a very good relationship with her family. She complains that her father gives all the money to his wife’s children and none to them (even though their house is like really pretty), and there’s a bit of incestuous flirtation that triggered my PFITASD (Post Flowers in the Attic Stress Disorder).