Craig William Macneill’s Lizzie isn’t the first work about the famed 1892 Borden axe murders to notice that “lizzie” is a vowel off from an anachronistic slang for “lesbian,” but it sure feels reverse-engineered from that phonetic coincidence. It also helps that we’ve reached a time where a movie written and directed by men can show respected actresses canoodling in the nude, while also seeming overtly feminist on the surface. (And by extension, the director and screenwriter are Nice Guys. #MeToo, right?) Lizzie begins with the sheltered 32-year-old (Chloë Sevigny) finding the slaughtered bodies of her parents, then flashes back six months to the hiring of timid domestic servant Bridget (Kristen Stewart), with whom she soon engages in tribadistic aardvardking.
Meanwhile, family patriarch Andrew Borden (Jamey Sheridan) is being sent threatening letters, possibly by Lizzie’s Uncle Morse (Denis O’Hare), a bit of palace intrigue that never really pays off beyond showing both men are terrible to not only Lizzie and Bridget, but to each other as well. Lizzie picks up a bit with the Clue-esque “or maybe this is what happened?” speculation of the third-act courtroom scenes, but by the time we’re informed that “the jury of men” decided a woman of Lizzie’s social standing couldn’t have done it, it’s hard not to wonder why we’re still expected to care.
Rated R. Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.