‘The Estate’ Review: No Good Will

Toni Collette and Anna Faris play sisters trying to weasel their way into their wealthy aunt’s will in this black comedy.

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By Teo Bugbee

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In the black, downright venal comedy “The Estate,” Toni Collette and Anna Faris play sisters on the brink of financial ruin. They run a cafe together and have just heard that the bank denied their loan application when they receive what passes for good news in this mordant farce: Their rich Aunt Hilda (Kathleen Turner) is dying.

Savanna (Faris) is the more unscrupulous sister, and she convinces Macey (Collette) that they should try to cozy up to their ornery aunt in the hopes of being written into her will. But when the pair arrive at Hilda’s home, they find their equally shameless cousins, Beatrice (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Richard (David Duchovny), engaged in similar plans. The family commences a race to the bottom of their dying aunt’s cold heart. But Macey and Savanna are ill-suited to beat Beatrice and Richard when it comes to bedside manners. And so they escalate their efforts at ingratiation, plotting disastrous reunions first with Hilda’s estranged sister, and then with her former flame.

The movie’s director, Dean Craig, is best known for writing the comedy “Death at a Funeral.” As a filmmaker, his images are perfunctory. “The Estate” features a desaturated color palette, and the production design looks shabby, even inside Hilda’s multimillion-dollar mansion. But Craig’s writing retains enough caustic wit for his excellent cast to work with. Collette plays the straight woman to her ruthless relatives, and the contrast between her moral dismay and Faris’s mercenary willpower drives some of the film’s best laughs.

This is a comedy that takes a vicious, over-the-top look at family greed, and fortunately, the cast members are game to play their characters’ attempts at flattery in the most unflattering manner possible.

The Estate
Rated R for language, sexual references and brief nudity. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. In theaters.

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