Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: The Inheritance (1997)

Box Art
Another movie that I have been intending on watching, but didn't until yesterday. This movie is an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel, The Inheritance, which was unpublished until 1997. The only Louisa May Alcott period drama that I have seen was Little Women (1994), which I was a bit lukewarm to: I just couldn't get into the story like many of my fellow period drama bloggers for whatever reason. But I still wanted to give The Inheritance a try. I did not know anything about the story or how it ended, so I watched it without any knowledge of what was going to happen next (which is technically the way you're supposed to watch anything). So, here is my review of The Inheritance!

Edith Adelon is the companion to Amy Hamilton, the daughter of Henry and Beatrice Hamilton who took Edith  in when she was orphaned as a baby in Italy. With the arrival of guests at the Hamilton's home of Evanswood, Edith meets one of the guests, James Percy, and falls in love with him. However, husband seeking cousin of Mrs. Hamilton, Ida Glenshaw, has also arrived at Evanswood determined to marry James Percy. Edith must over come the obstacles of social class that separate her and James and those obstacles that are set by Ida.

The Inheritance features a cast of mostly new faces. From the cast list, there are two names/faces that might be recognizable: Meredith Baxter (Beatrice Hamilton) can also be seen in Little Women (1978) as Meg March (she is also known for being the mother in the 1980s sitcom Family Ties); and Tom Conti (Henry Hamilton) can also be seen in an episode of Lark Rise to Candleford as Mr. Reppington.
Edith Adelon and James Percy

The Inheritance focuses on the family of Evanswood (the Hamiltons and their companion Edith Adelon) and their guests. Though each member of the family gets a decent amount of screen time, the main focus of the story is Edith. Edith is a very likable character and since coming onto the screen, I couldn't help but like her. She is portrayed as a bit of a tomboy (especially when she rides out on horseback astride and wearing men's clothing), but she can also be the lady that a girl in her situation is expected to be. Edith was almost always with Amy Hamilton, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton's daughter; though I liked Amy, she was a little bland compared to Edith. There seemed like there could have been a little more to her story, but I did like that they included in the movie how close Edith and Amy were -- almost like sisters (Spoiler though it is revealed that they are actually cousins End of Spoiler).

I almost instantly liked Mr. Hamilton: he was an easy going guy that supported Edith and loved her like a daughter. Mrs. Hamilton took me a little while to like, but I did come to like her pretty quickly. At first, I thought she was going to be a frivolous character that was going to be opposed to Edith's tomboyish personality, but she wasn't that. She was a caring mother who, I thought, treated Edith like her own daughter.

Then there's James Percy, who Edith instantly falls in love with. James was a respectable man and I was rooting for him and Edith the whole time watching the movie. He was an overall good guy that was always kind to everyone that he met.

Ida Glenshaw
Now for Ida Glenshaw: the pretty lady with a rotten personality. Ida proved herself to be a selfish flirt who was always calculating get James by sabotaging Edith by telling her how she isn't high enough socially to pursue him; Spoiler she even went as far as to steal Mrs. Hamilton's jewelry and plant it in Edith's room (how rotten!) End of Spoiler. How she stayed at Evanswood for as long as she did is beyond me: I don't know how or why Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton didn't see how Ida was acting and kick her out of the house.

Set in America during the 1870s or 1880s (determined by costuming), The Inheritance features a range of pretty scenes. Most of the scenes take place around the Hamilton's home of Evanswood, which not only features a very nice Victorian house (fitted up with lovely furniture) but also features nature scenes. Some scenes also take place outside of Evanswood, but not far beyond, so the town that Evanswood is near is also seen. The camera quality is very good, though you can tell that this was a made-for-TV movie. Nevertheless, the colors are very vivid and are a delight to see.

The costumes are gorgeous! From the looks of the costumes, I would say that the story takes place sometime in the 1870s or in the early 1880s (depending on how fast fashion trends moved from Europe to America). There were times that it looked like the bustle was worn by the women, while other times there was no bustle.

The main cast
Front: Henry Hamilton
Back: (Left to Right) Ida Glenshaw, Beatrice Hamilton,
James Percy, Edith Adelon, and Amy Hamilton
All the ladies were dressed very well indeed! As much as I disliked Ida, she did have some of the best costumes in the movie. I would probably classify the clothes that she wore as current fashions since she is supposed to be a city girl. Her costumes looked expensive and something that a wealthy lady would have worn. They suited her very well.

Edith was dressed plainer than the Hamiltons and Ida. Her clothes were mostly dark (save a couple of outfits here and there) and appeared to be made out of some sort of cotton or wool (nothing fancy like silk, which would have been worn by Ida). Though her clothes are plainer, they are nevertheless very nice. I just really didn't like Edith's riding habit: all it was was a man's riding outfit (and especially when she races in a town race later in the movie, would it have passed the way it did with her wearing a man's outfit?). Other than that, I thought her clothes suited her character well: they expressed a love of nature (after all, silks and lighter clothes would get dirty), a meek personality, and they contrasted well with Ida's flashy clothes.

Amy, why is your hair down?!
The one thing that irritated me about the costuming (besides Edith's riding outfit) was Amy and Edith's hair. There were multiple scenes where their hair was down when it should have been up. They didn't appear to be so young that they could have their hair down: they looked like they were eligible ladies who were old enough to look for husbands, therefore their hair should have been up. Later in the movie, their hair is put up, so the problem does get solved eventually.

Henry Hamilton was dressed like a gentleman, but his attire was more casual than most gentlemen. Since he was a more laid-backed character, this suited his personality well. James Percy was another one that this effect was also used on. He was also a gentleman, but he was also a man who liked nature, so his clothes reflected that.

The Inheritance is filled with delightful music performed by what sounds like an orchestra. There are a couple of dance pieces, piano pieces, and orchestra music throughout the entire movie.

Overall: 4/5
What I have to say next might shock some people: I actually liked The Inheritance better than Little Women. The story was delightful that seemed to progress as more of a story than Little Women (to me, Little Women felt like a series of little stories in one movie, which would have worked if it was a TV series, but not as a movie). Plus, I could easily like the characters in The Inheritance and could identify with them quickly (which didn't really happen for me with Little Women). The one thing is that Little Women was better film quality than The Inheritance (some of the effects in The Inheritance screamed made-for-TV movie), but despite that, I would still recommend this movie over Little Women.

I can't find a rating for The Inheritance, but I would probably rate it G: there really isn't much content to speak of. There is a scene where a man pushes a woman down, but nothing happens and he is chased away by another man. There are also some low cut Victorian dresses. Other than that, there's nothing horribly inappropriate.

The Inheritance is available on DVD. It runs for 95 minutes.

Old-Fashioned Charm
This review is apart of the Period Drama Challenge. Come join the fun!


  1. I like this movie well enough, but the book is so much better! I actually read the book in a whole day and then got the movie.

    And Edith is indeed very likable from the first! Loved her do much!
    My little sister died laughing at the scene where Amy is falling off the clift or whatever, and Percy comes lumbering over the hill (I gave him a hero-entering trumpet blast, and she really lost it then).

    Fine Percy did not exactly lumber over the hill ... But anyway! :}

  2. I have a copy of the book and it's one of my favorites! I saw the movie several years ago and, while it isn't as close to the book as I'd like, it was enjoyable. Glad you liked it too!

  3. Aw! Sorry you aren't the biggest fan of Little Women; I sure adore that movie and the 1994 is the best of the bunch - even if there is a miscast here and there!

    This movie *is* precious! It's been far too long since I saw it and now... you make me want a re-watch. :) Thanks!

  4. I love this movie! I read the book not long ago and found it very different. Alcott actually wrote it when she was sixteen which I find interesting. A lovely story in both the book and film, though. :)

  5. Oh, I really like this period movie. I so agree, it's so much more enjoyable than Little Women!

    Edith is such a likable character - I kept cheering her along and was delighted when love came her way. I too, would rate it as "G".

  6. This is such a lovely little story. I haven't read the book, but this movie is simply delightful. One of my favorites.

    How anyone could not love Edith would baffle me. She's such a wonderful character! And that ending scene is so sweet. I love this movie! :D


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