The sweet animated opening credits sequence of Dean Craig’s “The Estate” introduces two nice sisters who run a café. It’s a classic misdirect: a warm overview of sweet, caring Macey and sharp, smart Savanna under the guidance of their father, running a neighborhood joint replete with hot coffee and cozy regulars. We learn that the sisters are way over their heads and in serious financial trouble.
The cartoon prologue’s Macey & Savanna do not look like the Macey & Savanna. “The Estate.”Macey (Toni Collette), is vaguely sympathetic but weak-willed. Savanna (Anna Faris), is impulsive, possibly a sociopath. In order to save their precious café, one the audience never actually sees them working in, they’re going to have to butter up their dying, miserable Aunt Hildy (Kathleen Turner), who is rumored to possess a small fortune.
It would be so easy! Macey and Savanna aren’t the only extended family members to show up outside of Aunt Hildy’s mansion. There’s uptight cousin Beatrice (Rosemarie DeWitt) and get-along restaurateur husband James (DeWitt’s real-life husband Ron Livingston). There’s also pervy cousin Dick (David Duchovny) who has always had the hots for Macey (again, his cousin) as well as for any other breathing woman. Together these craven cousins take over Aunt Hildy’s estate, waiting on her hand and foot, emptying colostomy bags and entertaining a woman who has long wished herself dead.
“The Estate”Walking a funny and incredibly humorous line. “ha-ha”It is neither funny nor sharp. The film relies too heavily on gross-out body humor as well as early 2000s-style sexual comedy. This makes it a punchline for sexual assault and incest. It would be one thing if the film was fully committed to its nastiness — a type of comedy we don’t see much of these days at all — but “The Estate”Too often, its self-awareness can hinder it. Macey will occasionally take a break from the action for a half-panicked. “Guys, what are any of us doing here?” or to question whether the group’s actions are really worth it. No, “The Estate”These actions, no matter how much money is at stake, are not worth the effort.
Although the cousins are determined to sabotage each other in order to get the death-day payment from Aunt Hildy’s, none of them is as acidic or as witty as their elder. Turner plays Hildy with a mean streak and ruthlessness that makes her poor nieces, nephews, and nephews look like complete idiots. She’s having the most fun in her role, in part because no one in the film can keep up with her. Only she and her audience understand that none deserve her fortune.
Duchovny as DeWitt is funny and even game. The former plays an uptight New Yorker, while the latter takes on a tracksuit-lazy, lustful role. These are their friends. “The Estate”Feels like an amusement-park, where everyone can display their talents.
It’s Collette and Faris who feel like the weak links in their own vehicle. Colette, though wildly talented, is out of her depth in this comedy, forced to play the straight woman to no one’s delight. Faris on the other side is far too large and unrestrained. How can these two people ever have a successful business?
Eventually, “The Estate”Aunt Hildy tells Macey that she wants to finally fall in love and before she leaves this world. Macey and Savanna go in search of a former high school crush. He’s got a dark past of his own, and the contrived romance (both in the film and in watching the film) feels like one too many chaotic elements in an already messy movie. It’s not long before “The Estate” dovetails into full-blown nihilism, the audience left wondering — as Macey has said time and time again in the film — what any of us are doing here.
“Eat the rich”Comedy has been around for a long time, even though our attention spans are short. The initial attraction of a show like this was a draw. “Arrested Development”Bluth family children are a foolish, narcissistic bunch who seek to regain their fortune. “The Estate”Instead of focusing on the horribleness of the haves, we will take dull shots at their misery and the have-nots. That Macey and Savanna are the punchline of their own faux-altruistic selfishness doesn’t feel like anything new. Like a lot of the money out there, it’s old and stale.
“The Estate”Signature Entertainment opens Nov. 4, in US theaters