Directed by: Dean Craig
Premise: A pair of sisters (Toni Collette and Anna Faris) and their cousins gather at the home of their wealthy aunt (Kathleen Turner) who is dying of cancer. Everyone vies to be in their aunt’s good graces in the hope she will bequeath her estate to them.
What Works: The Estate is gleefully meanspirited in a way that is really fun. An ensemble cast plays a slate of vile characters and the actors throw themselves into the despicability. The Estate is led by Toni Collette and Anna Faris as a pair of sisters experiencing financial hardship and see their aunt’s fortune as a cure-all. The filmmakers do an effective job setting up the sisters as the most empathetic characters. Their family restaurant, which is associated with the memory of their late father, has gone bust and the inheritance is the only way to save it. Collette’s character is the most dignified member of the cast; she has moments of ethical clarity although she ultimately goes along with her sister’s plan. Toni Collette is the straight woman to Anna Faris’ foil and Faris is very funny. Rosemarie DeWitt is wickedly mean as their cousin. DeWitt does the passive aggressive mean girl routine very well and although everyone in this movie is some degree of horrible, DeWitt manages to make herself into a standout antagonist. Playing more to type, David Duchovny is cast as the perverted cousin. He’s done raunchy humor in the television series Californication and Duchovny is quite funny here as well. Kathleen Turner plays the dying matriarch and she’s witheringly cruel although not entirely without cause. The Estate is a good example of comic escalation. Comedies can get away with a loose story if they are funny but The Estate is tightly scripted; the plotting is logical and the humorous scenarios come out of the characters reactions to one another. The conflict and the stakes escalate to the climax and the payoff is very satisfying.
What Doesn’t: In the end, the filmmakers back away from the meanness that characterizes the rest of the movie. This allows the film a happy ending but it also softens The Estate in a way that makes it less interesting. With its characters fighting over the leftovers of this woman’s estate, the filmmakers seem poised to say something more about wealth and avarice but the film never gets there. It’s fine as it is, but The Estate does not dig any deeper into its themes.
Bottom Line: The Estate is a meanspirited but fun comedy. The filmmakers waver on the tone in the ending but much of the movie is satisfyingly and savagely funny.
Episode: #927 (November 13, 2022)