Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Something Terrible And Beautiful

The Heiress is not the sort of movie I'd usually watch. Olivia de Havilland is playing a plain-looking young woman who already has one $10,000/year inheritance from her deceased mother, with another, $20,000/year inheritance coming from her doctor father (Ralph Richardson) when he passes. Montgomery Clift is a ne'er-do-well who figures to get those inheritances to waste on himself with a bunch of sweet nothings. The problem being, Catherine's father sees through him immediately, and if he doesn't approve of Catherine's choices, he'll rewrite his will to leave his money to the hospital. And Morris wants all that money, not just part of it.

But the doctor blows it, too. He's too willing to say exactly what he thinks of Clift, not only to him, but to Catherine and anyone else in range. Morris is smart enough to play the honorable man who loves the girl too much to fight her father over an insult, which only makes Catherine defend him more. If this is the doc's bedside manner, I'd hope never to land in his care. That's not even taking into account an American hospital in the 1800s is not much of a place to be. End up like President James Garfield, dying because my doc can't stop jamming his dirty fingers inside my injury. When Clift confirms the doc's suspicions by vanishing into the night rather than eloping with Catherine and being happy with $10,000 a year to waste, the doc still can't fight that urge to be a total douche. Does he express sympathy for his daughter's broken heart? No, of course not. He plays the "I told you so," game, because of course she should have known better than to think that man actually loved her.

And Catherine's had it. She doesn't scream at him, she doesn't clutch at him and plead for him to stop, as she did when he'd badmouth Morris to her previously. She coldly eviscerates him. He has spent her entire life comparing her to her deceased mother and finding her wanting, and when not doing that, holding the threat of disinheriting her over her head. So she insists she'll pursue Morris, and he protests that Morris doesn't love her. That he did her a favor by proving it now rather than her figuring it out 20 years down the line. And she responds that it isn't so bad to live with someone who doesn't care for you. She had lived with her father for 20 years and survived.

So he tries the, "I'll rewrite my will!" gambit, and she calls the bluff. Tells him to do it. She never cared too much for money (though money could buy her love), and she's still got that 10,000 a year. So she encourages him to do it, in one of those mock supportive voices, brings him the paper and dares him to carry it out. And he fails, maybe because he does love her, in his own, shitty way. I don't think there's any one line that was really spectacular, but it was the whole thing. The change in her manner, the shift in her tone of voice, to something hard and cruel. The doctor has spent all this time making her feel worthless and of no importance to him, and he ends up with a daughter who cares nothing for him, and offers nothing he can use to gain purchase on her.

The doctor's health, already failing, goes quickly, so Catherine has few opportunities to get payback, but there's still Morris. It takes a few years, but he oozes back into her life eventually, and she gets a chance to enact a little revenge on him. She doesn't believe his sweet words this time, because he helped teach her not to believe such expressions as genuine. Or else she's come to believe that falling in love with someone is them trying to get something out of you. I'm glad she got some back on him, but I couldn't help worrying for her. I'm not one to criticize if someone is comfortable being alone, but I wonder if she is going to be happy going forward.

Still, I really enjoyed watching her exact revenge on both those assholes.

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