If you were casting in your mind for a 30-ish actress to play the title role of Lizzie Borden in a television movie about her life, wouldn't Christina Ricci be at the top of your list? There is something just quirky enough about the characters this actress has created in the past to make her a match for the role of the young woman who took an axe to her parents back in the mid 1800's. Ricci makes the character innocent on the outside but vile on the inside and that is the right combination to make her totally believable in this role.
Lifetime's original movie Lizzie Borden Took An Axe spends very little time on the events leading up to the murder of the senior Bordens, but focuses on the crimes and their aftermath. Lizzie claims to have discovered her father's body and sent their maid for help. Then later the maid went upstairs and found Mrs. Borden's body. Lizzie claimed someone with a grudge against her father (Stephen McHattie) must have done it, but there was an almost two hour time difference between when Mrs. Borden was murdered and Mr. Borden's own demise.
Attorney Andrew Jennings (Billy Campbell) was an associate of her father's and he volunteered to handle Lizzie's case. The prosecutor (Gregg Henry) had a weak case until it was discovered Lizzie had burned the dress she was wearing on the day of the murders. This gave serious doubt to her innocence.
The look and feel of the time in which Lizzie lived is recreated in this movie. You get the impression Lizzie was being smothered by what her father and society expected of her. She also did not like the way her stepmother came between her relationship with her father. So there were all sorts of conflicting emotions within Lizzie on the day of the murders.
The drama plays out well with suspense building over whether or not Lizzie will be found guilty or acquitted. The audience may think it knows all about Lizzie Borden but there are some twists in this script.
As stated, Ricci nails the role of Lizzie. Clea DuVall also does nicely as her protective older sister Emma. McHattie makes the most of his brief time as Mr. Borden, but Henry and Campbell fail to impress with their roles as the attorneys in the case.
Christina Ricci adds another solid performance to her résumé with her turn as Lizzie Borden. Her thoughtful portrayal should hold the attention of all audiences and make this movie a popular one for Lifetime.
Lizzie Borden Took An Axe premieres Saturday, January 25 at 8PM on Lifetime.