The movie chooses to show us how Lizzie committed the crime in more and more detailed flashes throughout the movie, which was fun at the beginning, but by the end I just wanted them to show me already. I mean, from the get-go I knew they were saying she did it anyway. What we know at first is that Lizzie tells the maid her stepmother has gone out to visit a sick friend, when in reality she’s lying dead upstairs. Tomato, tomato. Lizzie then waits three pears’ time — or almost two hours — to kill her father on the couch. The prosecutor (Gregg Henry) explains that she killed the stepmother first because otherwise the inheritance would have gone to her step-siblings. I didn’t realize they could tell time of death so precisely in 1892. You go, 1892!
The police begin to question Lizzie, and she nearly breaks under the pressure. You can tell because there are a lot of close-ups of her face and flashbacks to the killings. At one point the prosecutor says they found blood on her dress when they examined her after the murder, so she runs home and burns it, because that doesn’t look suspicious at all. Luckily the maid sees it and testifies against her later. Even her own sister seems to think she did it. Emma insists Lizzie’s innocent in public, but she locks her bedroom door at night. I’m sure she could still break through it with an ax if she wanted to, though: “Heeeere’s Lizzie!”
All the campy fun starts to get ruined when the actual trial starts. I’ve just seen so many courtroom dramas, especially on Lifetime, that it lagged for me. Clearly if you want to tell Lizzie Borden’s story in full you have to include her trial, but I would have liked that part to be shorter so we could have gotten more over-the-top build-up to the murder itself. That would have also helped to explain why Lizzie committed the murders in the first place. Gotta get that past trauma in there, right, Lifetime?
Lizzie’s lawyer (Billy Campbell) makes the case that she’s just a “tender young lass” who could never possibly be capable of such a heinous act. And of course stuffy the all-male jury totally buys it and declares her not guilty. Cue wild electric guitar riff as Lizzie walks out of the courthouse a free woman. Years go by, and Lizzie and Emma have become pariahs in their community. People literally get up and walk out when they show up at church, the number one sign of being a pariah.
At the movie’s conclusion, Emma calls Lizzie out on her cavalier attitude, and Lizzie decides this is the perfect time to whisper a confession into her sister’s ear. Here’s where we see exactly how she did it, from stripping naked before killing her father to washing the ax off. I’ll admit her whispering made me very uncomfortable, as I’m sure it was intended to. Than she just sits down and sips her tea. Muhahaha complete. Emma immediately moves out, and Lizzie goes outside to witness children skipping rope to the tune of her rhyme. Um, kids, you do realize you’re right outside her house, right?
We end the movie with a windswept shot of Lizzie covered in blood superimposed over the skulls of her parents like she’s Norman Bates. I see you and your references, Lifetime. Overall I think this had the potential to go all out and be crazy fun, but unfortunately that pesky trial really slowed things down. Always go full cackle, Lifetime. Always.