NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL 2020 REVIEW! By their very title, “eat-the-rich” comedies usually dabble in the murkier waters of human behavior. The Estate, though, bypasses those brackish ponds and dives right in the tar pit. There’s not a shred of morality to be found within its frames, and, quite honestly, it’s all the better for it. But like sociopathic siblings of the Bluth clan from Arrested Development, they quickly cross into comedic turf, and you settle in to watch them get what’s coming.
Written by its star Chris Baker and helmed by first-time feature director James Kapner, The Estate zeros in on a highly dysfunctional “family” consisting of hedonistic trophy wife Lux (Eliza Coupe) and her self-serving step-son George (writer Baker), who are algae-feeding off the palatial home of affluent a*s Marcello (Eric Roberts). You need no deeper look into this mother-son relationship beyond their open scene together, where she asks George to accompany her into a poor part of town so she can have random sex, and he doesn’t bat a lash.
“…zeros in on a highly dysfunctional ‘family’ of hedonistic trophy wife and her self-serving step-son…”
While in a grimy honkytonk bar, they encounter hunky Joe (Greg Finley), a drifter who is more than happy to oblige Lux with her quest. George notices that Joe’s eyes have also wandered in his direction, so he is happy to have Joe hang around the homestead for a spell. When Joe hears the two complaining about the wretched behavior of globe-trotting Marcello, he offers to kill him so that they may inherit his fortune and, quite literally, cut out the middle man. Before long, they are all plotting an elaborate scheme when Marcello returns, and given the collective IQ of its characters, you can assume things will not go smoothly. In fact, before long, the bodies begin to pile in their quest for cash, and in this familial pit of vipers, no one is safe from being bitten.
Things get nasty and bloody, for sure. But what makes this neon-soaked nihilistic romp perpetually entertaining is the round of bravura performances from its leads. As Lux, Coupe is an absolute blast. When confronted by George that she had sex with his father on his mother’s deathbed, she insists: “It was not her death bed! She was in a coma!” Baker also packs charisma to spare, channeling the delivery of Ryan Reynolds’ younger brother. You can see he relishes being able to dig deep into his id-fueled character, and his razorblade writing gives him and Coupe line after line of slicing dialogue. When your film features a role for Eric Roberts as a rich, philandering husband and he emerges as one of its most ethical people, you know you’re wading in the dark deep end.
There’s no nuanced subtlety like last year’s Parasite and its caste system takedown here. Nope, The Estate doesn’t have time for that. Director Kapner keeps things moving fast and furious, with wonderfully witty transitions and contrasting its ink-black themes with candy-colored sets. It will certainly not appeal to anyone who likes at least one person to root for in their films (The L Word’s Heather Matarazzo pops in as a sugar-sweet receptionist who also has ulterior motives). But for those who felt James McNaughton’s Wild Things was too chaste and cheery, The Estate is right in their wheelhouse.
The Estate screened at the 2020 Newport Beach Film Festival.
"…for those who felt Wild Things was too chaste and cheery, The Estate is right in their wheelhouse. "