“Let’s go get . . . rich from that dying old bitch.”
Avarice is the driving force in Dean Craig’s dark comedy, The Estate. Greed is a common enough motive in comedies. We can all easily identify with it at some level. That may be why it’s included in the Seven Deadly Sins. In this film it pushes the characters to become increasingly crass, insensitive, and callous.
Macey (Toni Collette) and Savanna (Anna Faris) are sisters who have been trying to keep their late father’s café in business, but it is about to go under. When they learn that their odious rich Aunt Hilda (Kathleen Turner) is dying, Savanna suggests they should go and try to endear themselves to her to inherit her estate. Macey is reluctant to be a “will hunter”, but when one more problem comes up, she agrees.
When they get to Aunt Hilda’s home, they discover they are not the only relatives with this idea. They find themselves in a competition with their cousins. Beatrice (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a picture-perfect woman, who has come with her husband James (Ron Livingston). Richard (David Duchovny) is a sleazy lounge lizard, but he has kept in touch with Aunt Hilda through the years. Each has their eyes set on convincing Aunt Hilda that she should leave her wealth to them. Their plots lead to a great deal of scatological and raunchy humor. (If those appeal to you, this is your film.)
Macey is the most sympathetic character of the bunch. It is with her that we most identify. She is the only one who is reluctant to take part in this whole scheme, but feels as though she has no other choice. While the other cousins view this as a win at all cost endeavor, Macey continues to have misgivings throughout. She is also the only one who seems to understand and appreciate Aunt Hilda’s final words (which are indeed the truth).
The cold-heartedness of this family really tends to separate us from fully engaging with them. It is a bit uncomfortable to watch their selfishness and scheming without regard to anyone else. There is not a one of them who recognizes that Aunt Hilda may be something more than an estate waiting to be inherited. The lack of any sense of compassion in the characters really is a block to the film finding a good connection with viewers.
But perhaps we can see that separation as the reality of greed in our lives. It makes possessions more important than relationship. As we grasp for what we think has value, we lose touch with things that are truly valuable. The Estate never asks us to look at the value that might have been found in the family connection of the cousins, only at what it takes to get the money. Unfortunately, it sticks with the same shallowness as its humor.
The Estate is in general release.
Photos courtesy of Signature Films