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    Sex, Murder, and Money; Welcome to The Estate

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    The delicious queer comedy thriller The Estate, out in theaters and available on demand October 22, is full of witty one-liners and dirty double-crosses.

    The plothas the gay George (writer Chris Baker) conspiring with his stepmother Lux (Eliza Coupe) to kill his father/her husband Marcello (Eric Roberts), a billionaire, to accelerate their inheritance. (In a nifty bit of casting, Baker looks like he could be Roberts’ son).

    The pair land on this devious goal after they go slumming in a dive bar and meet the hunky Joe (Greg Finley). Bringing Joe home for the night, they learn, conveniently, that he is a hit man who is eager to assist George and Lux with their scheme. Moreover, Joe proves himself to be quite good in bed—with each of them—which prompts them to let him stay.

    The Estate, directed by James Kapner, is a broad, dark comedy that skewers privilege and will amuse viewers who appreciate its campiness. Lux is a vain, obnoxious, entitled woman, but Coupe delivers her every line in such an exaggerated fashion that she is hilariously catty, not shrill. (Coupe’s Lux is also a master of false sincerity.) Likewise, George’s louche character may be quite superficial and effeminate, but he butches it up to get what he wants. In fact, he and Joe both get turned on when they fight aggressively-playfully.

    The hoary murder plot kicks in when Lux lures the absent Marcello to come home and come to her in the bedroom. George and Joe prepare to off him, but things do not go as planned. As such, while Marcello does indeed die, there is an unexpected victim in the crime. This causes a complication, but what is worse, the anticipated inheritance diverts all of Marcello’s estate (save the house George and Lux live in) to the billionaire’s heretofore unbeknownst daughter. Of course, this prompts George, Lux, and Joe to find the scion and kill her before the lawyers inform Marcello’s daughter of his will.

    The Estate has fun with this spiraling crime spree, and Joe seems to enjoy working with George when it comes to making a killing. (Joe expresses his pleasure by performing a sex act on George to indicate this, cementing their relationship.) But the question arises in George’s mind—will Joe kill him once he inherits his father’s money? George seduces a pool boy (Kyle Rezzarday) to make Joe jealous and keep him around and interested.

    Kapner plays up the sexual frisson between George and Joe in this kiss-or-kill narrative well, imbuing the film with considerable homoeroticism. (Baker and Findley frequently appear shirtless, and Kapner fetishizes their impressive physiques.) The filmmaker, however, is less sure-footed in generating thrills of the nerve-wracking kind. A sequence involving Ellison (Rif Hutton), an investigator, possibly discovering Marcello’s daughter’s corpse, is more strained than suspenseful.

    If the film is amoral in its plotting, Baker’s crafty script plays that up gleefully. Upon hearing the will read, Lux and George complain that Marcello treated them better when he was alive. And when Mary (out actress Heather Matarazzo) who works at the law office, feeds information to Lux and George—for a $2 million fee—she has a terrific speech justifying her unethical behavior.

    There is absolutely no shame for these characters, and that is precisely why The Estate is so much fun. George craves the money so he can be invited to the Black and White Gala and (re)enter society as someone who, after years of bullying and repressed anger, can feel like he belongs. Joe too confesses to wanting to have a sense of family, having never known his father. Lux is just greedy, but knowing that she can buy dresses rather rent them online is motivation enough for her to kill.

    Even the production design feeds into this amoral mindset. The film’s crisp visuals are full of bright colors and big empty spaces that convey the shallowness of the money-hungry, skin-deep characters.

    As The Estate builds to its dramatic conclusion, tables get turned and more bodies pile up. The plot has a few twists that surprise the characters perhaps more than viewers. But who comes out on top is less important than how—or what—they have to do to get there.

    The cast is game with Baker and Coupe hitting all the right notes. As Joe, Greg Finley is appropriately sexy and mysterious, which makes him a terrific foil for his devious lovers. That all the characters are both hateful and yet easy to root for is why The Estate works so well.

    That said, the film is not going to please everyone. Mocking the 1% is an all too obvious target, and the film tries too hard to find something to satirize. But for those who lean into its campiness, The Estate is wicked fun.

    © 2021 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on October 21, 2021