LFF 2018 Lizzie Review
Lizzie (2018) Film Review from the 62nd Annual London Film Festival, a movie directed by Craig William Macneill, starring Chloe Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jay Huguley, Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare and Jeff Perry.
Lizzie is based on a real-life story of a woman from the late 1900-s, who was involved in a horrific crime. As a concept, it is fairly promising. The film itself, directed by Craig William Macneill is utterly devoid of surprise. It hits every award-baiting cliche you can think of. Nothing new is shown or said in this story. Lizzie is 105 minutes long and perhaps one (at best) of those minutes is unexpected in any way. It is a by-the-numbers autobiographical story with some entertaining horror-slasher elements and nothing more.
The main character is Lizzie, played by Chloe Sevigny, who is suffering under the brutal dominance of her (spoiler alert) racist, misogynistic, bigoted, pedophile, rapist father (Jamey Sheridan is in the role). The heroine finds happiness and love in the face of the family’s new maid – Bridget, portrayed by Kristen Stewart. This is the set up and anybody who reads it will likely figure out the ending. Those who are unlucky enough to have seen the trailers will literally be completely spoiled. And if by any chance, a viewer walks in a Lizzie screening, completely unaware, don’t worry, the film’s resolution is literally given away within the first two minutes.
The acting is on point. Sevigny’s cold expression really sells the years of torment that her character has suffered in that hateful family. Her powerful voice and commanding posture stand out throughout the entire film and even in the third act when axes start flying at her enemies’ heads. Kristen Stewart is fittingly cast as the good-hearted, seemingly shy and modest maid. Her acting is quiet and subdued and she manages to create a subtle image of this girl that happens to be the light in the tunnel for the protagonist. Sheridan’s role is the most straightforward one and he steps into the shoes of the monster convincingly. He strikes a good balance between a hateful, low-key villain and a person who is doing his best to hide his true nature.
A Compromised Climax
Another admittedly enjoyable aspect of the film comes extremely late in the story – in its third act, when the vengeance comes. The sequence is a mixture of eroticism and an efficient build-up of tension that concludes with a brutal act of violence. Regardless of how satisfying or thrilling different audience members can feel about Lizzie’s culmination, it has one huge, obvious flaw. The film opens with the result of the conflict. From the very first scene, we know how it all ends. What on earth were the writers thinking when they made this decision is a mystery. Did they think that everybody would be familiar with this nineteen-century story? Were they perhaps trying to make the film’s messages even more obvious than they already are? Whatever the reasons are, it is a mistake – one that clearly undermines the emotional impact of the entire film.
Lack of An Original Approach
Not much can be said about the film’s on the nose socially-political commentary. Feminism, punishment of sexual predators, anti-racism, support of homosexuals’ rights – all of this stuff is here. None of those issues are addressed in an original manner. So, naturally, the involvement of these themes and the constant stress on them is not simply boring. It is obviously, an unapologetic attempt to attract the attention of award ceremonies and nothing more.
This film is packed with subjects that can be comfortably connected to contemporary social issues. In this day and age, when literally every single media is addressing those problems and every other film has something to do with one of them, a motion picture can only stand out if it provides a fresh perspective of some kind. Lizzie doesn’t. The messages and the plot are as clear as daylight.
Connections to Contemporary Society
Obviously, all of the aforementioned themes are affiliated in one way or another to current nationwide problems. The problem is that in Lizzie, the antagonist is doing things, which he would never get away with had he lived in 2018. The same goes for the female main characters. In this story, they are brutally restricted in their actions and choices because back in those times, women were stripped by many of their basic rights, unlike now.
We are not living in the nineteenth century so what is the purpose of experiencing issues that were solved by society long ago? That is perfectly obvious and it creates the feeling that Craig William Macneill’s film is only aiming to educate and affect the viewers who somehow have failed to grasp the simple concept that all people should be treated with equal rights and respect. Bigots, rapists and homophobes are bad. Women deserve the same as men. What kind of new information is that? What kind of an audience is not aware of that already?
The Inclusion of Trendy Topics Can’t Replace Quality
Indeed, something very troubling is happening with modern movies. Film-makers are clearly adopting the perception that the mere placement of the idea of female empowerment, equal rights for LGBT people, punishment of rapists, etc. substitutes quality. Obviously, the presence of such concepts is encouraging, but that doesn’t mean that the story and the film around it are memorable or good.
Making a film is more than just telling a story and every self-respecting grown up can tell you about a time when a rapist was imprisoned, or when a gay kid was bullied or when a woman became the subject of misogyny. But not every educated person can make a film, let alone a special film, which Lizzie isn’t. This is a straightforward story with a resolution and development that are disappointingly obvious from the very start. The acting and the intensity of the story’s climax are good but that won’t wash away the feeling that you’ve seen the same thing a hundred times before.
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