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Inheritance | Review

Sins of the Father: Stein Mines Elitism in Absurd Melodrama

Vaughn Stein Inheritance Movie Review“Does any daughter every really know her father?” is one of several wilting lines of dialogue in Inheritance which could have served as a double-sided tagline. The sophomore feature from director Vaughn Stein written by first time scribe Matthew Kennedy is a soap opera balanced on the troubled dynasty of wealthy family, whose demise seems imminent after the unexpected death of a tyrannical patriarch.

An interesting array of notable names, several of whom are glaringly miscast, enhances the campy qualities of this over-baked yarn which features a few too many turns of the screw which are neither surprising nor compelling. Still, with lead Lily Collins doing her best to lean into a shrill but paradoxical characterization and an entertaining turn from a bedraggled, venomous Simon Pegg, it’s a film whose charm resides in the delirious accidental fumes of the camp born of labored thrills and overbaked melodrama.

After their father (Patrick Warburton) suddenly dies, the Monroe clan is thrown into turmoil. Eldest daughter Lauren (Lily Collins), who became a prosecuting attorney against her father’s wishes, inherits markedly less of the family estate than her younger brother, charming congressman William (Chace Crawford) and their passive mother Catherine (Connie Nielsen). But after the reading of the will, family lawyer Harold (Michael Beach) gives Lauren a secret inheritance, a bombshell revealed in a manila envelope, wherein she is led to a bunker in the backyard where a man name Morgan (Simon Pegg) has been held against his will at her father’s behest for over thirty years. Quickly, Lauren must ascertain how to handle the situation but finds herself manipulated by the persuasive Morgan since she has no one else to turn to for advice.

Borrowing from the revenge tropes of the celebrated Argentinean thriller The Secret in Their Eyes (and maybe a dash of the elitist class hierarchies of Paolo Virzi’s Human Capital—both films which were remade in English), Inheritance tries hard to tango with morality as Lauren decides how to deal with the issue of the man who’s been locked away on her family property for more than three decades.

It’s clear the script is trying to hard to showcase Lauren as the black sheep of her prosperous clan as she struggles to ‘do the right thing.’ However, the dubious finale ends up feeling like a two-headed hydra engaged in battle with itself, and much like the rest of the film, is absent of any tension since Lauren really isn’t molded as a protagonist, but merely the naive larva of an elitist clan who has yet to unsheathe her fangs.

Kennedy’s screenplay paints her in painfully uneven tones—true, nepotism has ensured her position as a DA, but as an argument with the family lawyer (an underutilized but always welcome Michael Beach) contends, she’s woefully unaware of reality as far as her occupation goes or how the world works. Likewise, Chace Crawford is miscast as Collin’s ‘younger’ brother, who also seems suspiciously nubile for his prominent position as a congressman who takes after good ole’ dad, an effective Patrick Warburton cast against type. And while Connie Nielsen doesn’t have much to do besides look immaculate, Simon Pegg appears to be relishing an opportunity to play someone really insidious—it’s too bad we’re left with the impression of a distracting hairdo and a mantra involving a repeated key-lime pie recipe.

Arguably edging into so-bad-it’s-good territory, Inheritance is really as bland and derivative as its title suggests. While Stein manages a cohesiveness, which was not apparent in his 2018 debut Terminal, his latest owes more to the vibrancy of his cast than anything else.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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