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The Inheritance

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 04-09-2010


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Media Type: DVD
Street Release Date: 02/28/2006
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The Inheritance

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Those who like period pieces will very much enjoy this made for television movie, which is loosely based upon Louisa May Alcott’s novella of the same name, which novella she wrote when she was all of seventeen. With an excellent cast and deft direction, this Cinderella-ish, happily-ever-after story is one that the whole family can enjoy.

The film, which takes place in nineteenth century America, focuses upon a wealthy family, the Hamiltons. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton (Tom Conti and Meredith Baxter) live in elegant splendor on a vast estate with their bookish teenage daughter, Amy (Brigitta Dau), and her slightly older companion, Edith Adelon (Cari Shayne), whom Amy adores, along with a large retinue of servants. Edith has a place in the household that is somewhere between upstairs and downstairs, as she is more than a servant but not quite family.

It appears that Edith, an orphan, has been raised in the household since infancy, when the Hamiltons went to Italy to settle the estate of Mr. Hamilton’s estranged older brother. The Hamiltons found the infant Edith abandoned on the Italian estate of Mr. Hamilton’s brother and believed her to be the daughter of a servant who died in childbirth. The Hamiltons were so smitten with her that they took her back to America with them and proceeded to raise her.

Now a young woman, Edith’s life is thrown into a tailspin when the Hamilton’s beautiful cousin, Ida (Bridget Conley Walsh), comes to visit and be introduced to some eligible bachelors. The Hamiltons arrange for a very eligible and wealthy bachelor, James Percy (Thomas Gibson), to stay with them with an eye towards his making a love match with Ida. While shopping, Edith, however, briefly meets a handsome young man by the blacksmith’s shop, and when their eyes lock, it is love at first sight. She later discovers when James Percy arrives that he is the young man with whom she has fallen in love and realizes that he is beyond her reach.

The Hamiltons, however, include Edith in their social plans for Amy, Ida, and James, primarily as a companion for Amy so that Ida and James can have some time to get to know each other. When disaster strikes, however, and Edith saves the day, the Hamiltons reward her by inviting her to a ball. There, the host takes offense that the Hamiltons should presume to insult him by appearing with the hired help, and Ida makes sure that Edith knows this, ruining Edith’s evening in the process.

This pomposity gets Mr. Hamilton’s dander up, and he will brook no insult to Edith. Meanwhile, James has been smitten by Edith, who draws away from him because they inhabit two different worlds, a point that the mean-spirited and jealous Ida wastes no time in driving home. Edith also draws away from him because she believes that there is a budding romance between James and her beloved Amy, whom she would not hurt for all the love and money in the world. Meanwhile, Ida continues creating mischief.

When Edith saves Mr. Hamilton’s honor by winning a horserace against the pompous host of the ball that she attended, all is well, more so because she defied convention, riding astride rather than sidesaddle. Then, Mr. Hamilton makes a discovery that shakes him to the core. A deathbed confession to Edith will bring tears to even the most hardened of viewers. This in turn causes Edith to make an unprecedented and noble decision. Unfortunately, on the heels of her potential sacrifice, a mysterious theft crops up, and Ida points the figure at Edith. At this juncture, a deus ex machina appears in the unlikely guise of a servant. Suffice it to say that all is well that ends well.

I absolutely loved this film, despite the fact that it was somewhat predictable. It is just a lovely period film with fine performances by the entire cast. I still cannot understand why Canadian actor Thomas Gibson has not yet become a major star, given his exceeding good looks and talent. Tom Conti is especially endearing as the somewhat liberal blue blood who champions Edith. Cari Shayne gives a luminous performance as the noble Edith, while Meredith Baxter is excellent in the role of the somewhat thoughtless Mrs. Hamilton. Bridgitta Dau shines as the bookish but irrepressible Amy, and Bridget Conley Walsh is well cast as the beautiful but soulless Ida.

This film is well worth having in one’s personal collection, if one is a devotee of period pieces or simply a fan of Louisa May Alcott. Moreover, at the price for which it is selling, this DVD has got to be one of the best bargains around.
Rating: 5 / 5

If “Little Women” is the novel wrapped around Jo March, then “The Inheritance” is her sister Beth — small and unnoticed, but sweet and beautiful all the same. This lovely period TV movie is (very loosely) based on the mediocre novel of the same name, by the classic author Louisa May Alcott, and this is one of the few instances where the movie is vastly better than the book.

Edith Adelon (Cari Shayne) has lived with the wealthy Hamilton family ever since she was a baby, and is now the companion of bookish Amy (Brigitta Dau), and a good horsewoman to boot. But her life changes with the arrival of two guests at the Hamiltons’ home: the beautiful, calculating Ida (Brigid Conley Walsh) and handsome James Percy (Thomas Gibson).

James and Edith are drawn together first as friends, and then by something deeper. But Ida, who wants him for herself, manipulates Edith into rejecting James when he proposes to her. Then after Edith takes place in a famed horse race, mysterious thefts and a family tragedy threaten to derail her entire life with the Hamiltons.

Louisa May Alcott wrote “The Inheritance” when she was only seventeen, and the book is syrupy, over-romancitized and cliched. But the movie “The Inheritance” is what Alcott probably would have turned the book into, had she rewritten it instead of burying it in a trunk. The wilting lily Edith is replaced with a strong, friendly young woman, and the plot is spiced up with some social commentary.

To some degree, it’s a typical love-conquers-all romance, and the dialogue borders on cheesy at times, although overall the scripting pretty good. It’s the execution that is likeable. The characters ramble around lush manorhouses full of light and beauty, or idyllic forests. And the gooey romance is glossed over with some sharp commentary on stuffy traditions and hypocrisies, such as why women were not allowed to ride astride. Also a touch of tragedy, when one of the characters dies.

Cari Shayne is quite good as Edith, especially since she has to be so NICE all the time; Gibson is similarly good, and they have some solid chemistry. Walsh is not so good, but Ida is given few dimensions beyond a catty nastiness. And Dau, Meredith Baxter and Tom Conti are excellent as the brainy, bookish Amy, the long-suffering Mrs. Hamilton, and the rebellious but sweet Mr. Hamilton.

“The Inheritance” takes the same-named novel and rips it apart, turns it inside out, reembroiders it and sticks it back together — and the result is remarkably polished and strong. Louisa May Alcott would have been proud.
Rating: 4 / 5

Based on the “lost novel” of the same name by Lousa May Alcott, The Inheritance chronicles the life of Edith Adelon, an orphan who is given an opportunity to live with a wealthy couple (Tom Conti and Meredith Baxter) as their daughter’s companion. Edith proves herself a formidable entry into a rather cold and unwelcoming upper-class society and soon catches the eye of a wealthy gentleman played beautifully by Thomas Gibson.

I absolutely love period pieces and it’s very rare that I come across one don’t like, but this one was absolutely terrible. Meredith Baxter was unfortunately miscast (as was 3/4 f the actors in ths movie; I couldn’t stand watching her play this role. She looks great, but her dialogue forced, and her acting was mediocre to say the least, making the entire effort very difficult to watch. I felt as if I was watching Dynasty in Regency gowns. Sorry, If you like period pieces, take your chances…
Rating: 2 / 5

Rating: 5 / 5

This is a wonderful story and worthy to be seen many times over. However, our daughter has this movie, which we’ve seen several times, but the one I purchased through Amazon, was NOT the same as what our daughter had. She got hers through Feature Films for Families. The difference? The one our daughter has is free of foul language, whereas the one we purchased contains foul language. We’ve been told that Feature Films for Families takes good movies and “cleans them up.” The story is good, but for families, it is too bad that the “original” movie contains some things which are objectionable to some people.
Rating: 5 / 5

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