A somewhat obscure notion in American society (less obscure in the UK perhaps) is the “dead hand” whereby an individual can get or keep his or her inheritance only by performing certain tasks or living up to certain conditions laid down in the will. That way, the parent or ancestor maintains “control” over the behavior of his progeny “from the grave.”
Yet, sometimes Hollywood was responded to this concept as if it were a foregone conclusion that it is real. Fox Faith, early this year, released a film “The Ultimate Gift” in which a North Carolina playboy (played by an evolving Drew Fuller) has to perform twelve tasks to get his bequest. The film was directed by Michael O. Sajbel, and is based on a novel by Jim Stovall. The tasks have a lot to do with charity and volunteerism and some manual labor (he has to drill some fenceposts into the ground at a spread at a Texas “King Ranch:”), so the whole tale comes across as “moralistic,” but the ending definitely feels good, even if some of the intermediate confrontations are stagey.
Sometimes this issue is a subject for comedy. In New Line Cinema’s “The Bachelor”, from 1999 (dir. Gary Sinyor, based on a play “Seven Chances” by Jean Havez), Chris O’Donnell is the playboy, who must marry by age thirty, stay married for ten years, and produce biological offspring (yes, he must procreate – please the Vatican.) This sounds like a setup for opera buffet and would work in European farce (definitely in a major key) but it rather offended me as a film. (See also Oct. 7, 2017.)
(See also the posting on Aug. 24, 2007, about "mandatory family responsibility" for the childless in films.)