Evoking a variety of dark comedy greats like Drowning Mona, Heartbreakers, and Drop Dead Gorgeous, The Estate came virtually out of nowhere to become a late-in-the-game contender for the best comedy of 2022. I should have known it would be in the running just based on the ensemble cast assembled alone, which includes Anna Faris, Toni Collette, David Duchovny, and Kathleen Turner. How far would one go to snatch millions from a dying relative who has always been the nastiest person around? The Estate, from writer/director Dean Craig, certainly brings new meaning to the term “dysfunctional family…”
Savanna (Faris, Scary Movie, The House Bunny) and Macey (Collette, Knives Out, Hereditary) are in serious money troubles. The bank has just denied a new loan, and now unless they can come up with the money for repayments, their precious family cafe will be shut down for good. Just when all hope seems lost, their mom delivers news that makes the unit more happy than they probably should be—their awful Aunt Hilda (Turner, Serial Mom, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) is on her deathbed, dying from cancer “everywhere.” On the line is the grouchy woman’s million-dollar estate. With no other way to get money, Savanna proposes that they head to Hilda’s, and find a way to get their hands on her inheritance. Despite their mother insisting that her sister Hilda is quite a “cunt,” Savanna and Macey decide to give it a try regardless.
What could have been easy money immediately feels like a mistake when Savanna and Macey arrive at Hilda’s home, a sprawling mansion. After slipping past an aide who stormed off and quit, it becomes apparent why this family is so against Hilda: the woman is truly a mean old curmudgeon. Cousin Beatrice from New York is already there schmoozing Hilda, demanding extravagant meals made by her chef husband, James, and offering up body massages to her dying aunt. The small bundle of flowers that Savanna and Macey have brought seem like scrap compared to Beatrice’s massive bouquet that sits by Hilda’s bedside. Just when it appears things cannot possibly grow any more dire, cousin Richard (Duchovny, The X-Files, Californication) arrives at Hilda’s doorstep. Keeping touch with Hilda through WhatsApp and various other forms of social media, Richard seems the potential best candidate yet to inherit Hilda’s massive fortune. His obsession with Macey is equal parts gross and hilarious—Richard is on a never-ending mission to prove that it is okay for cousins to get together sexually, even if his only form of evidence is internet porn.
With Hilda’s home quite full thanks to the arrival of the cousins, each compete for her love and attention, anxious to be written into her will. Various schemes go hilariously awry, and they most often come courtesy of Savanna and Macey. Beatrice is determined to outdo her cousins—in particular, she is constantly picking fun at Macey and her multiple failed marriages. Neither Macey nor Savanna initially are successful at winning over Hilda’s affections. I laughed out loud when Macey compliments Hilda’s glow, and the woman snaps back that “it’s jaundice.” Will a reconciliation with her sister win Hilda’s affections? How about a romantic rendezvous with an old school flame?
A heavy focus on money-hungry back-stabbing personalities and a darkly comedic tinge to its situations, The Estate would make a perfect double feature if paired with 2001’s seminal classic, Rat Race. The characters are truly unlikable while at the same time being lovable, which is a super strange combination. I think the most surprising performance in the film to me was Kathleen Turner as Hilda—she makes one hate her, but in the same breath, giggle along at her savagery. As the schemes of the cousins grow more and more outrageous, the film culminates in an absolutely preposterous finale that explodes in dramatic irony and sight-gag humors. Sometimes, a super fun dark dramedy is exactly what the doctor ordered, and The Estate knows precisely how to concoct a potent medicine.
Find out who is set to inherit The Estate when it debuts exclusively in theaters on Friday, November 4th.