Grey Gardens + The Heiress

Double feature: “Inheritance” most often refers to a lot more than just money – expectations, limitations, disappointment, and guilt.  “Grey Gardens” and “The Heiress” are two films that explore this broader, weightier conception of inheritance and family legacy.

Both films center on complicated parent-child dynamics that result in the latest generation of a high society, old money family failing to meet the expectations of their forebears.  Both will provoke thoughts in the “nature vs. nurture” vein, especially the tangled web of parental influence that is often inefficiently, euphemistically referred to as “nurture.”

And both films are singularly frightening in their psychological implications.  Both clearly warn against a sensitive child’s over-attachment to a parent, and over-absorption of that parent’s expectations for her behavior and success.  This internalization subsumes the natural development of the children’s personalities, and leaves both parent-child couples surreptitiously struggling beneath a mutually accommodating surface.

That one family’s struggle takes place in external splendor, and the other’s in squalor, makes little difference.  Their shared shame is that the parents’ most fervent hopes for their children’s well-being thwart the children’s happiness, and the children’s strong desire to secure their parents’ approval keeps them from obtaining it.

Riveting watching, both.

For a marathon“Rebecca” is linked to “The Heiress” in its heroine’s lack of confidence and feelings of romantic inadequacy, and in every other characters’ underestimation of her full capabilities.

(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “kaitlyn rose” and “Drewbonics” at Flickr)

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