I was supposed to watch The Estate in October. It was included in the programme for The London Film Festival and with a stacked cast – Toni Collette, Anna Faris, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Duchovny – it was on my watchlist.
A day or two before the scheduled press screening for the film, it was pulled from the press schedule and no new screening was organised, meaning you could only see the film if you had a ticket to a screening. It was strange and had certainly never happened to me before, so when a screener came available via Sky Cinema, I was ecstatic I could finally watch it.
Now, only moments after the credits began to roll on The Estate, I long for the hope and optimism I held mere days ago. The film, written and directed by Dean Craig, is awful. It’s very clearly supposed to be a comedy, but it’s just not funny at all. Those closest to me know that I am not above the occasional dick joke, but 90 minutes of jokes about penises, incest and Kathleen Turner dying is a bit much, even for me.
The plot is deceivingly simple; Turner’s Aunt Hilda is on her deathbed and her greedy family members are after the inheritance. The events are mostly seen through the eyes of Macey (Collette) and Savanna (Faris), who need the money to keep their business afloat.
There’s also Richard (Duchovny), or Dick as he prefers now and Beatrice (DeWitt), the ass-kissing cousin who’s first to tend to Aunt Hilda, who is, by all accounts, a terrible human being. Must run in the family then, because literally every character in The Estate is insufferable and objectively horrible.
There’s nothing wrong with morally ambiguous characters, but The Estate offers not a single likeable character, which makes it difficult to root for them in their quest to get Aunt Hilda to include them in the will.
Even when the actors are good – Duchovny tries his best with the cringe-y dialogue he’s given – the jokes just don’t land. It’s all very crude, but not in a rib-ticklingly funny type of way, just in an exhausting way. Collette, so magnetic and electric in films like Hereditary and Knives Out, is dull and almost desperate here, while Faris is mostly just irritating and overdoes her part with no sense of nuance.
It’s hard to imagine what the appeal here was. The script reads heavy and tone-deaf while Craig’s direction feels aimless and almost non-existent. The action is mostly confined in Aunt Hilda’s house, which feels lifeless; it’s clearly nothing more than a set, certainly not a home. The film moves from one bad joke to the next with no insight to any of the family relationships at play here.
Craig clearly wants The Estate to be scandalous and outrageous, but by the time we see Faris pull out someone’s limp dick, the film has truly run its course. The Estate is only outrageous in just how bad it really is. In fact, it’s a struggle to come up with anything positive in it. In the words of Duchovny’s Richard: “Dick out.”
The Estate is streaming on Sky Cinema 13 January.