By: Amanda Guarragi
We all love diving into the lives of the rich and famous because they are just so interesting to watch. They seem to have this carefree life and they are able to do whatever they please. In The Estate, writer and actor, Chris Baker, explores the complexity of privileged, rich people by placing them in very odd situations. Normally, when we have stories about the rich and famous, they are always struggling with their persona and how hard it is to constantly be in the spotlight. In this movie, we see a spoiled son named George (Chris Baker) and his billionaire patriarch’s newest wife, Lux (Eliza Coupe) plotting to murder him. They form a psycho-sexual bond with their brutally handsome hitman, named Joe (Greg Finley), as they kill and kill (and kill) in their quest for wealth and recognition.
There was this perfect marriage of ideas between Baker and his director James Kapner. You could tell that they shared their ideas and tried to execute this story in a different way. There are plenty of moments in The Estate that got me very excited because of how refreshing and bold it was. Films, such as this one, come around and sweep you off your feet because it’s well-rounded and it knows what it wants to be. From the very beginning it had this playful nature, especially because of the dialogue that was delivered perfectly by Coupe and Baker. Who would have thought that pairing a young stepmother and her stepson would make for a hilarious duo? Their line delivery was fantastic because we normally wouldn’t hear their whacky conversations in real life, but they were so committed to their characters, that they sold me.
When asked about his character of George, Baker said that he spent so much time with him while writing this character, but really felt that connection to him while performing him and inhabiting him for as long as he did. George is an openly gay character in the film, and Baker wrote him as the central focus, without the story revolving around his sexual identity. George was plotting the murder of his father with his stepmother and its pure madness. Baker went onto say,
“Most of the story itself isn’t a gay story, which is kind of refreshing. I have gone on a lot of auditions for gay roles and it’s always about being wildly effeminate and cheering on the female lead character, which is a great role to have but it’s also about being a victim or about being sick or being bullied. I was so thrilled that I could write a character that was an anti hero, that had so many flaws and that went through a journey and a descent into hell.”– Chris Baker, The Estate
It was incredibly refreshing to see that representation on screen in such an effortless way. This is the story that Baker and Kapner wanted to tell and it played out nicely. The character of George went on such a journey in this film. There was a nice balance between comedy and horror throughout because Kapner knew how to build tension and not cutaway from the darker moments. He let the emotional moments breathe without undercutting them with a cheap laugh. It was still fun and campy, when it was supposed to be, but then the slasher elements were executed in such an impactful way. There were vibrant colours that hit on giallo horror and the kills were unexpected.
When asked about balancing both, Kapner said, “It was tough because you put somebody in a certain headspace and you have to put little easter eggs along the way. So once you get to the heart pounding moments, it’s not completely out of nowhere, you have to drop little hints and not get too telegraphic with it.” This is one of the first films, in a very long time, where I felt like it was unpredictable. There were plenty of shocking twists that were placed perfectly throughout to keep the viewer engaged. When there were acts of violence on screen, Kapner said that they wanted to play that straight, so the audience could feel the tonal difference between the upbeat, nonchalant attitude of contemplating the murder versus actually following through.
The Estate is the hidden gem of the year. It is ballsy, refreshing and full of energy. It’s a movie that will pull you into the excessiveness of the rich and famous, while grounding these characters in their moral judgement. It is also one of the funniest and most enjoyable films of the year. Every single aspect of this film, from the soundtrack, to the cinematography, to the direction was spot on and made this film special. Baker is a very talented writer and it’s impressive how he was able to bring this complex trio together to create such a unique comedic thriller. If you live for the drama of rich people, then definitely check this out! It is now streaming on Apple TV, YouTube and Google Play.