You may hate yourself in the morning, but if you are in the mood for a completely un-PC, morbidly amusing farce about the need for greed, the new comedy The Estate may be right up your alley.
Quite frankly if you know the work of its writer/director Dean Craig, the British filmmaker best known for both English and American remake versions of the over-the-top farce Death At A Funeral, as well as his directing debut Love Wedding Repeat, you will know what you are in for. Subtle comic wit and three dimensional human beings are not his specialty. Neither is restraint. The Estate, shot in New Orleans, will not disappoint, and in fact his penchant for completely politically incorrect situations and comedy is – so sue me – something of a tonic in the increasingly woke obsessed world in which we find ourselves. It has, as the ad line for the dark 1960’s farce The Loved One (which had to be an inspiration for Craig’s comedic brand) says, “There is something to offend everyone”. So I laughed out loud. Again, sue me.
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What gave me hope here was the sterling ensemble cast Craig has managed to assemble. You figure if Toni Collette, Anna Faris, David Duchovny, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston, and above all, the irresistible Kathleen Turner in a killer comic turn as an insufferable dying aunt who may be holding all the cards here, there has to be some redeemable value to all this. Basically it is just a hoot watching them all swing for the fences and score laughs at everyone’s expense.
The premise isn’t terribly original. Movies like Daddy’s Dyin’: Who’s Got The Will? have mined this kind of thing before, but Craig goes for broke, unafraid to prove too much is never too much.
Macey (Collette) and younger sister Savanna (Faris) are at wits end when their low-end diner is about to go bust, banks won’t loan them any money, and their dream business is at a dead end. When they hear that their not-so-beloved and mostly ignored but very rich Aunt Hilda (Turner) is on her death bed, Savanna schemes to enlist Macey in a plan to go to her side and jockey for her money. That means getting into the will in a significant enough way as to save their restaurant. Macey is reluctant, but desperate times call for desperate measures, so off they go to visit Hilda in her imposing mansion. Turns out however their cousins, goody two-shoes Beatrice (DeWitt) and useless and dim bulb Richard (Duchovny), aka the family Dick, are also on the case already, out for themselves in this dysfunctional family. Beatrice has dragged along her compliant , and weak , hubby James (Livingston) and turns on the sweetness to convince Hilda she is her loving niece, and always has been even if its a very recent conversion. Richard at least has been the only cousin to stay in touch with his “favorite aunt”, not a smart guy but smart enough to know that loyalty might benefit him when she kicks the bucket.
The fun here is watching them all compete against each other in gross ways. Macey and Savanna even kidnap Hilda in order to force a reunion with their mother, estranged forever from her sister, because they think it might benefit their cause – it turns disastrous. On top of that, Richard has always had the hots for Macey even though they are related, still making moves on her. “Did you know that there are entire porn sights dedicated solely to cousin-f*cking?,” he asks.
During a family dinner in which they all jockey for Hilda’s attention, Beatrice presents her with a lovingly compiled scrapbook of her life, and as she looks through it points out the high school boy, Bill Dunther, she felt could have been the love of her life but was the one who got away. She then laments she will never again have sex. Lightbulbs go off and Savanna comes up with the idea to track down Bill ( a game Danny Vinson), only to find him living in a half way house for prisioners just released, in his case jail time for his penchant to expose himself to anyone he sees. Nevertheless they convince him to come visit Hilda before she passes, but the plan soon careens out of control when Hilda and Bill unexpectedly announce marriage plans almost immediately after the reunion, meaning it would be Bill who becomes the main beneficiary of her will. Oy. Now with someone in common to stop, the desperate relatives band together for what becomes one, just one, of the film’s most deliciously tasteless sequences. It may not be on the same level as the masterpiece of greed comedies, 1963’s It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, but it’ll do.
Turner, with primo comic timing, steals every scene she is in as you might expect. Faris uses her sitcom chops to good advantage, as the always welcome Collette gets to mostly play it straight. Duchovny seems to have a blast going as low brow as possible, De Witt is very amusing, even when she goes so far as to prostitute her hapless husband to give Hilda a last gasp sexual experience. Kelly Monterrose Mejia (so funny in last season’s Curb Your Enthusiasm as an untalented wannabe actress) is perfectly cast as Macey and Savanna’s younger sibling who is called into duty to save their plan. Gichi Gamba and Patricia French also turn up in small, but memorable roles along the way.
Producers are Marc Goldberg, Sarah Gabriel, Sarah Jessica Parker and Alison Benson. The Signature Entertainment and Capstone Studios production opens today in theaters.
You have been warned, but if you want a few belly laughs, you could do worse.
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