The Estate

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

The Estate
dir-scr Dean Craig
prd Marc Goldberg, Sarah Gabriel, Alison Benson, Sarah Jessica Parker
with Toni Collette, Anna Faris, David Duchovny, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kathleen Turner, Ron Livingston, Keyla Monterroso Mejia, Danny Vinson, Patricia French, Gichi Gamba, Kim Baptiste, Billy Slaughter
release US 4.Nov.22,
UK 13.Jan.23
22/UK Signature 1h35

dewitt turner livingston
london film fest

Is it streaming?

faris, collette and duchovny
Writer-director Dean Craig continues to mine family crises for broad humour (see also Death at a Funeral or Love Wedding Repeat), filling the screen with slapstick mayhem and abrasively foul-mouthed banter. Craig's loose direction gives the corny script a rattletrap charm, although it's difficult to laugh at running-jokes about incest and sex offenders. And the entire narrative is structured to head to a series of rather cheap punchlines.
With their New Orleans cafe about to go under, Macey (Collette) and her brassy sister Savanna (Faris) have no idea how to save it. Then they hear their wealthy Aunt Hilda (Turner) is dying, so they sidle up to her in an effort to be written into her will. But they're beaten to the punch by their cousin Beatrice (DeWitt), who has flown in from New York with her husband James (Livingston). And cousin Richard (Duchovny) turns up as well. They all move into Hilda's mansion in an increasingly desperate effort to win her over.
Brisk and very silly, the script is structured as a series of tit-for-tat attempts between the cousins as they try to one-up each other. After failing to broker peace between Hilda and their mother Diane (French), Macey and Savanna track down Hilda's teen crush (Vinson) in an attempt to win her favour, and it's unsurprising that this plan also backfires horribly. Eventually, all of this scrabbling around jeopardises both Beatrice's marriage to James and Macey's relationship with her sensitive boyfriend Geoff (Gamba), who is randomly about to be transferred to Alaska.

Performances are heightened to match the film's manic pace, but the first-rate cast manage to find some realism within their goofy characters. None of them are remotely likeable, but the actors help us understand their awful behaviour. Collette feels like the most realised character here, the only one who can see her failings. She nicely balances Faris' outrageously impulsive Savanna. And even though she's a nasty piece of work, Turner finds some pathos in the way Hilda falls prey to her money-grubbing relatives.

Alongside the obvious message about the dangers of greed, there are pointed comments about the connections that hold families together and push them apart, and also about how life has a way of battering our hopes and dreams into submission. Although because the film is completely lacking in nuance, these themes kind of evaporate in between the gags about body parts. That said, the movie does elicit a few wry smiles along the way.

cert 15 themes, language 23.Dec.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall