Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart aren't exactly known for being poor actors. Sevigny was nominated for an Oscar for her work on Boys Don't Cry, and she won a Golden Globe for Big Love. Stewart, meanwhile, was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Into the Wild, and she won a César Award for Clouds of Sils Maria. Yet in their new film, Lizzie, the pair may have outdone even their previous work as they both give haunting performances that perfectly complement one another.
The movie is about Lizzie Borden, the notorious 19th century Massachusetts woman who was accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe in 1892. Borden was acquitted of the crime, but she has nonetheless become a mythological American figure over the past 126 years, popping up in everything from children's rhymes to horror films. Ane while many depictions of Borden have generally shown her to be an axe-wielding maniac, Lizzie attempts to show another, gentler side of the woman. And this is accomplished mainly by showing Borden's (Sevigny) relationship with Bridget Sullivan (Stewart), the Borden family's live-in Irish maid. The film depicts Sullivan as Borden's friend, lover, and eventual co-conspirator in the murders, and it takes some seriously skilled and subtle acting to pull this off.
In reality, there's no real evidence that Sullivan was involved in the murder. Nor is there any evidence that Sullivan and Borden were friends; and there certainly is no proof that they were lovers. But with a case as perpetually popular as Lizzie Borden's, people are going to form their own hypotheses by analyzing every little clue and detail, and as a result, some have theorized that Sullivan and Borden were romantically involved. Whether that was the case in real life or not, Sevigny and Stewart sure do a fantastic job of selling it in Lizzie, as showcased in the exclusive clip below.
The clip shows the first meeting between the pair, and their chemistry is immediate from the get-go. As Lizzie Borden unknowingly enters Bridget Sullivan's new chambers, she introduces herself and quickly establishes that she will not treat the family's new servant like everyone else does. After shooing away Sullivan's generic given Irish name, she asks for her real name, instantly making the new resident more comfortable in her unfamiliar surroundings. Lizzie then upends this comfort by going in close — real close — to fix Bridget's hair. Both stars are at the top of their respective forms in the scene, and they instantly make the viewer believe that this relationship between Borden and Sullivan could very well have taken place.
Lizzie offers a new, unexpected look at the life of Lizzie Borden and the alleged crime that defined her, but what truly sets the film apart are the performances of its leads. Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart will not only have you convinced that Lizzie Borden was romantically involved with her family's maid — and the chief witness to the Borden family murders — but they also might just cause you to look at the horrific crime of the film's notorious titular character in a sympathetic light. And that takes some impressive acting work indeed.