Synopsis: A patriarch of a wealthy and powerful family suddenly passes away, leaving his wife and daughter with a shocking secret inheritance that threatens to unravel and destroy their lives.
Stars: Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, Chace Crawford, Patrick Warburton
Director: Vaughn Stein
Running Length: 111 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: Over the past few months while I’ve been cooped up there’s been time to do more than watch movies, a shocking thought to be sure. Though I resisted at first, I’ve only recently given over to becoming a member of the puzzling community and now I have another project to occupy my time. The jigsaw puzzle I’m working on now is tricky because the picture you see on the box doesn’t match the final one displayed in the finished work, meaning that you can only use the original image as a reference point. What’s even trickier is that some pieces seem to fit right at first but wind up not being the exact match you originally thought they were.
Watching the new thriller Inheritance is a lot like putting together this puzzle because what you see isn’t exactly what you get and it’s made up of pieces that don’t fit. Audiences in the mood for a twisty suspense film are willing to piece together intricate plot points but you have to provide them with the proper skill level for their efforts. While I feel the finished project is overall an entertaining one that rises above some more standard tropes, it can’t get away from some big red flags that prevent it from rising to the next level.
Wealthy Archer Monroe (Patrick Warburton, Ted) has passed away suddenly, leaving his wife Catherine (Connie Nielsen, Sea Fever) and children William (Chace Crawford, Peace, Love & Misunderstanding) and Lauren (Lily Collins, Mirror Mirror) in shock. The head of a successful and influential family, he was also a hard and harsh man toward his children and there doesn’t appear to be a lot of love lost at his demise. At the reading of his will, his estate is divided between Catherine and William with Lauren receiving a smaller portion of his fortune. This comes as no surprise as politician William is mounting another reelection bid and Lauren has always been somewhat of a disappointment to her father…even though she’s the District Attorney of Manhattan. (!)
Lauren gets something more for her inheritance, though. A secret. Delivered by the Monroe’s lawyer (Michael Beach, Aquaman) she becomes keeper of the keys to a secluded bunker behind her family estate that holds a dark mystery from her father’s past. Now, it’s hard to speak of what this is without revealing too much of the wild turns Inheritance begins to take but suffice it to say it involves a man (Simon Pegg, The World’s End) who could sully her family name. Their relationship eventually forces Lauren to make the choice between family and virtue and leads to the awakening of some deep-seeded resentment toward her father we see played out in flashback.
Directing only his second feature film, Vaughn Stein takes Matthew Kennedy’s at times far out there script and finds a nice visual balance by draining the film of a lively color palate. Upstate NY (actually Alabama) looks bleak, leaving our heroine literally out in the cold for much of the film. Stein has a good eye to keep the film interesting to look at, even if he allows it to go on longer than it should because with a running time of 111 minutes it’s could easily lose 14 of them and be a tighter, tauter affair. Reviews of Inheritance have given away the twist and I could have expanded on what’s in the bunker but I’m deciding to be deliberately obtuse because I saw the film without any knowledge of the deeper plot and that’s how I think you should too. There’s a lot about the movie that’s, frankly, silly so the more you can take the seriousness when it’s available I say run toward it. While it builds to some truly ludicrous switcheroos and supposedly smart people acting like complete dopes, I found a lot of Inheritance to be an an engaging ride.
Remember how I mentioned that puzzle piece that seems like it fits but really doesn’t? That would be Collins as the leading lady who gives it her all but is just miscast in the role. Taking over the role from Kate Mara (who would have been aces), Collins doesn’t look old enough to be the Manhattan DA, let alone have a child that barely needs to be in a car seat. It feels like these character points were written when Mara was still cast and weren’t changed when Collins came on board. Had the script been tweaked to make her child younger and alter her career position (not because she couldn’t hold the position but because I didn’t believe she was old enough to have it yet) I would have been able to buy her character fully. Though Collins acts up a storm, she just feels out of place throughout. Aside from some truly heinous acting from a bit player Collins meets with to get answers about her father, the acting is strong from the rest, particularly Nielsen who feels underutilized…until she isn’t.
Inheritance is a perfectly OK thriller, one of those films that you’d see pop up on your Netflix queue that you’d give some time to and walk away none the worse for wear. It has some good points (I was surprised at a few rather spooky set-ups) and some stumbles but having approached it with no real investment there was nothing for me to be let down by. It’s well-made and nicely assembled with performances that are nothing less than fully committed – I just wish the script was tailored more to the actors playing the roles and not the other way around.