The Heiress (1949)
Genre: Period Drama Romance
Starring: Olivia de Havilland (Gone With The Wind; Captain Blood), Montgomery Clift (From Here To Eternity; A Place In The Sun)
Directed By: William Wyler (Ben-Hur; Wuthering Heights)
Overview: When a plain and shy woman is finally wooed by a handsome young man, her father the doctor is displeased, suspecting the suitor is nothing more than a gold-digger.
Acting: Clearly this is one of those films that actors love making. Well directed by a man worth his salt, these people went on to do great things, and though sometimes a touch melodramatic, it is an acting style that fits with the era and the setting. The bourgeoisie is a little stuffy in this one, but isn't that what we expect of them, Fanny and Alexander aside?
Cinematography: Well the house is elaborate enough, there's a nice scene in a courtyard and the big dance is not a chore to endure, but if you've come expecting innovation, you won't find it here. Romantic films tend to focus on character and simplicity instead of glitz, but throwing in a fancy dress and a top hat and calling it a 'Period-piece' is not enough for me, thank you very much.
Script: The professions of love and the lectures by father and the naive young girl's words were indeed well scripted. There was originality from time to time, but if you watched this on mute, you might just know exactly what's going on regardless. The depth of emotion was far more represented in the actors than in their words.
Plot: This seemed like the type of story without a twist, a clear tale of suitor, daughter and father at odds. I'll say that as much as the climax was interesting and original enough compared to my expectations, the plot as a whole was not as moving as I had expected. I suppose a tale of forbidden tragic love is more my bag.
Mood: 'Period' is not enough to get me in the zone, aside from realizing that this is a time of far more strict courtship. Though this particular story could still hold true today, I didn't find it to be particularly inspiring. The worst part of all was the music, which constantly mirrored the emotional state of those on-screen, including a scene where the light everyday piano music suddenly ends with an abrupt deep note just as father says something unkind, you know... the 1850's equivalent of a rim-shot. Ouch.
Overall Rating: 72% (It won't Earn You Much)
Aftertaste: Thank God this wasn't as bad as Letter Of An Unknown Woman. Yes, the romantic drama has eroded a path into our cinema, and we can't all expect films like Punch-Drunk Love or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but the Romantic Victorian Film, isn't that the boldest of clichés? To make this kind of film today, wouldn't that just be a director daring his audience to throw tomatoes at him?