(TW: it’s all horrifying tbh)
When I was little I had a friend named Emma Borden and I refused to sleep over her house because I was convinced she was a descendant of Lizzie Borden and was going to kill her parents with an axe in the middle of the night. Why did I know about these gruesome murders at such a young age? Maybe because there’s a weird nursery rhyme about it?? Idk tbh. But a detail my lil closeted self did not know was that Lizzie was a lezzie and possibly conspired with her housekeeper/lover to commit the murders. I learned this in the gem of a movie, Lizzie, starring Chloë Sevigny as Lizzie and Kristen Stewart as Maggie/Bridget, her hot Irish housekeeper/co-conspirator.
The film opens with Sevigny running around the backyard looking stressed. She stops to eat a pear from their pear tree and make labored eye contact with Kristen, aka Maggie, aka Bridget. Maggie/Bridget is cleaning a window nearby, looking as constipated as ever. There’s a lot of bold violin music. We then hear a scream, presumably Lizzie’s, and see that her father and step mother have been murdered.
We go back in time to when Maggie first arrives at the house (which is still standing IRL and was a bed and breakfast until 2021 and is now for sale if anyone is interested). Kristen as Maggie walks like a butch but looks like a colonial American Girl doll. Her attempt at an Irish accent is not as bad as I was expecting, but she barely speaks during the movie so I think that helps.
When Maggie’s alone in her room, Lizzie barges in and is like “oh sorry didn’t realize you were here,” but also doesn’t stop coming into the room and rifling through the drawers. There are the usual small sexual-but-not-at-all-sexual moments between Lizzie and Maggie, common for lesbian period pieces. Lizzie puts a pin in Maggie’s hair, for instance, and you would’ve thought she’d found her clit.
Then Lizzie gets ready to go to the theater and her step mom is like “you look pretty” and Lizzie’s like “I told you i’m going to the opera,” like okay bitch can I give you a compliment? Her dad is like “you can’t go unaccompanied” because “the whole town will be there.” I guess that’s dangerous? Or embarrassing because she’s old and single? It’s apparently very uncool how old and not married her and her sister, Emma, are. (They’re in their early 30s.) Even though he’s pissed at first, Lizzie’s dad is eventually like “fine you can go,” and at first you’re like “he doesn’t seem that bad, maybe he doesn’t deserve an axe to the face,” but then you keep watching.
At the theater, Lizzie’s washing her hands in the bathroom next to a woman who’s like “your dress is very smart” and Lizzie’s like “yours is quite blue.” Ok??? She clearly doesn’t get out a lot. The woman asks why her family doesn’t use electricity despite being rich and it’s like, bitch mind your business. Lizzie says her dad doesn’t “believe in”electricity. k. Then she roasts her in a very 19th century way and is like “you’re obsessed with lumination, what are you an Edison?” burnnnn bitch. Then Lizzie takes her seat at the opera but suddenly has a seizure during the performance.
Maggie helps nurse her back to health, obvi, by bringing her cold towels and eggs and strained eye contact. The seizures aren’t really ever addressed and Lizzie bounces back p quickly. Later, when she’s playing with her pigeons in the barn, Maggie comes in to get some wood. Lizzie asks her if she likes the word “impediment” ??? and how much “schooling” she’s had. The convos back then must have been so dull — — “how do you feel about words??” And Lizzie is so condescending to Maggie who really is just trying to do her job.
Out of nowhere, Lizzie asks Maggie if she’s “afraid” and she’s like “of what?” and Lizzie’s like “men don’t have to know things, women do.” Oooookay then. Then she starts teaching her how to read??? None of this is hot and I can’t imagine why this movie needed to be made. It’s also weird to sympathize with Lizzie? It’s like we’re watching a rom com where the climax is her axing her homophobic parents — basically Happiest Season with hatchets.
Things get dark when Lizzie’s dad approaches Maggie randomly when she’s hanging clothes out to dry. He’s like “you’re doing a great job, hey would you mind leaving your door open at night? i’ll give you a raise” ??? um no thank you, sir. But she unfortunately has to and he sexually assaults her and the step mom knows and it’s all really disturbing.
Then the family starts getting very well written threats on their doorstep. The first one says “Your sin will find you.” Is it lizzie’s sin of dreaming abt maggie/bridget’s pussy? Is it the dad’s sin of being a rapist who doesn’t believe in electricity? Who knows. That night, somebody knocks on the door and the dad goes out with a gun but nobody is there. The next day, he yells at Lizzie for making them “vulnerable,” I guess by going out alone and being a single lesbian??? No idea honestly.
There’s some rich-people stuff going on, too. The dad is giving some land to his brother-in-law, Lizzie’s uncle, instead of to Lizzie and her sister Emma, who also still lives with them. But Lizzie’s not having that. She steals a bunch of shit from her parents and sells it at a pawn shop to get back at them. Unfortch, the pawn shop owner tells her dad and he kills all of her pigeons :( Lizzie loses her shit and has another seizure and her sister is like “get it together” ??
The next day, Maggie receives a letter saying that her mother has died and asks Lizzie to read it to her. Then she for some reason decides to charge into Lizzie’s arms for a hug. Like head down, charges into her arms. It’s an awkward choice. It’s supposed to be a romantic moment but it’s all so cringe. Especially when you consider they’re about to MURDER PEOPLE WITH AXES.
Lizzie and Maggie start passing notes through the laundry and it’s cute, again, until you remember the impending murders. Then they get in their first fight but it’s so old-timey I have no idea what it’s about. Maggie just keeps talking about the “weight her dad’s name carries” and then apologizes to Lizzie? Who is like, “I hate my dad, too.” As Lizzie’s talking, Maggie’s staring at her lips and it’s like, now’s not really the time, Kristen.
There’s more supposed-to-be-sexual-but-aren’t moments between them. Like when Maggie sensually buttons Lizzie’s petticoat, they do the kiss-but-not-kissing thing, where they hold each other’s lips two centimeters in front of one another for like two minutes and nothing happens. It’s very awkward. There’s always an element of fear in period-piece sex scenes that I hate.
Then the weird uncle, who’s trying to steal their inheritance, comes home and assaults Lizzie, basically trying to choke her, and Maggie saves her life. This I guess is just the foreplay they needed because they have sex in the pigeon shed the next day.
Unfortunately for them, Lizzie’s dad comes home in the middle of the day and is looking for Maggie. His wife knows what’s up and is like “i’m continually astonished by how embarrassing you are” lolll true. But also sooo fucked up and gross and sad. But he can’t find Maggie because she’s in the pigeon shed getting it on with Lizzie.
In the shed, it’s another period-piece sex scene where they act like their lips are poisonous and can’t touch for too long or they’ll die. Then out of nowhere it gets real raunchy and Maggie’s shoving her little Irish fingers in Lizzie’s mouth. It’s like the saddest porn ever. In a shed full of dead pigeons no less.
Then the dad walks in on them. He fires Maggie and tells Lizzie the attachment is “unhealthy” and asks her to not make him “put it more bluntly” but she’s like “say im a dyke bitch” but he calls her an “abomination” instead. Then maggie starts crying and is in love with Lizzie out of nowhere and Lizzie’s like “i’ll take care of you forever” even though they literally only banged once. Then Lizzie burns her dad’s will and gets a hatchet from the barn and we know shit’s about to go down.
Fast-forward to post-murder again, Lizzie goes to jail and it looks nicer than a lot of apartments I’ve lived in. Meanwhile, the uncle is freaking out because the will is missing and Maggie continues to walk around brooding like a sad fuck boi. She covers for Lizzie in court but later confronts her and is like “idk who you are” and Lizzie is like “idk, wanna date?” and maggie’s like “i’m good.”
Then we see how the murders were carried out. First, Maggie gave a note to Lizzie’s step mom that said her friend was ill. The step mom went up to her bedroom to change, where a completely naked Lizzie was waiting for her. Lizzie then murders her with a hatchet before her father comes home. Once the dad gets home, Maggie undresses and tries to kill him, but can’t, so Lizzie takes over and does it.
Back in prison, Maggie tells Lizzie she’s leaving town and not to look for her or write to her. “I never wanted anything from you,” she says, before hopping on a train and getting tf out of there. As Maggie stares out the train window, she remembers Lizzie fondly. It’s SO WEIRD. You just watched her kill her parents!! The sex in the pigeon shed couldn’t have been that good.
The movie ends with Lizzie in prison, staring straight ahead. But the final shot is of her outside, in her normal clothes, facing the sun with her eyes closed. Honestly looking really content. OKAY THEN.
According to the ending credits, Lizzie was acquitted for both murders because nobody believed a woman of her “standing” could commit them. She lived out the rest of her life (rich af) alone in the same town. She had few friends and left a majority of her fortune to the humane society — sounds like a lesbian to me! And Maggie lived on a farm in Montana until her death at age 82, which is also queer af.
Another win for sociopathic murderous lesbian representation this year.