Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson
Director: William Wyler
Running Time: 115 mins
The Heiress is an American film about a young woman who falls in love with a handsome man, however they struggle to come together as her strict father suspects the man is more set on the family’s fortune.
As much as I love William Wyler, I have to say that I couldn’t ever really get into this film. Despite featuring an interesting premise with the potential for both strong emotion and thrilling twists, The Heiress is actually a rather monotonous watch, proving a dull and frustrating watch with a bland and predictable character arc that completely failed to grab me throughout.
Expectations are always something that can unintentionally change your perspective on an entire film, and I feel the way that the movie sets itself up in the very opening stages – i.e. the first ten minutes – is something that led me astray with regards to what I wanted to see from the film.
At first, along with the movie’s premise, it seems like there’s a type of Hitchockean tension and mystery brewing beneath the surface, just waiting to burst out into a thrilling turn of events that will ramp the drama up to eleven right to the finish. Now, while I won’t deny that the movie does indeed feature the odd moment of good tension and Hitchcock-esque drama, that’s actually not what it’s all about, in reality playing out far more like a theatrical romantic drama, without the focus that I was looking for on the thrills, twists and mystery of the story at hand.
There is a degree of unpredictability here, and the core question about what the suitor’s intentions really are could go either way, but it unfortunately pales as a result of painfully dull characters in the middle of a movie that’s really a little too one-note, failing to really develop itself into something surprising and engrossing along the way.
Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift’s performances are okay, but their on-screen rapport feels a little too tenuous at every stage of their relationship, meaning I couldn’t really buy into the apparent love that was causing such tension in the family. The real stand-out is Ralph Richardson, as the strict and often abusive father, who provides the most energy and drama in the film by a long way, and even though his own character’s development isn’t all that engrossing, the theatrics of his performance do provide some intrigue along the way.
The main problem I have with the movie is that our main character, played by de Havilland, is just really dull. Although her identity as somewhat of a young spinster is conducive to a less flamboyant personality, there’s little depth and personality to her character at any point, and although she does change and develop over the course of the story, it’s that type of excessively predictable character evolution that feels a step behind both the story and your own expectations, meaning nothing about her proves genuinely surprising or interesting at any point.
Overall, I was very disappointed by The Heiress. I feel that it’s a better film than what I got out of it, but from a misleading opening stage, the movie feels like a really underwhelming affair, worsened by dull personalities and predictable character development that just do nothing to really grab you at any point, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.0