The Estate


Dirty deeds done very expensively.

(2020) Comedy (Stone LaneChristopher Charles Baker, Eliza Coupe, Greg Finley, Heather Matarazzo, Eric Roberts, Lala Kent, Allan Graf, Ezra Buzzington, Alexandra Paul, Cohen Prescott, Kyle Rezzarday, Aubyn Philabaum. Directed by James Kapner

 

It is said that the very rich aren’t like thee and me. Their outlook is much different and their moral compass always points towards where the money is. We like to think that they didn’t get rich by being nice; sometimes, those stereotypes aren’t far from the mark.

George (Baker) is the very gay son of Marcello (Roberts), a very rich man. He and his dad’s latest trophy wife Lux (Coupe) have been exiled to one of Marcello’s L.A. mansions on what they both consider a pittance of an allowance, enough money just to survive but not really enjoy their wealth. The two do a lot of commiserating about Marcello’s cruel penurious tactics.

At a dive bar where George is trying to pick up some random guy for sex (as is, to be fair, Lux), the two of them meet Joe (Finley). Joe claims to be a hitman living off the grid. The three of them hit it off and Joe offers to rid Lux and George of their mutual problem – Marcello. Of course, the problem is sex – both Lux and George find Joe very attractive and Joe swings both ways. The plan to take out daddy/hubby turns into a series of double and triple crosses as Joe turns out to be a whole lot smarter than either one of them thought.

This is meant to be a black comedy, and at times there is the sharp, biting humor that you would expect from one of those. Unfortunately, a lot of the humor is of the sit-com variety, kind of safe and not quite as outrageous as the filmmakers seem to think it is. Still, there are plenty of twists and turns and the kind of plotline that will make even the most jaded pessimist roll their eyes with delight.

The performances here are strong across the board, particularly from the esteemed veteran Eric Roberts who once again seems to be having more fun than just about anyone else in the film. Sadly, he’s not in the movie nearly as much as I might have liked but that’s a necessity of the plot. Not all that long ago, he would have been perfect for the role of Joe.

My biggest issue with the movie is that it tends to reinforce negative gay man stereotypes; the cattiness, the promiscuousness, the shallowness; while I’ve no doubt that there are gay men who fit that stereotype (it had to come from somewhere, after all), it doesn’t do the movement any favors to portray them this way. I don’t know if it is my liberal conscience being triggered, but I had less of an issue with the rich being portrayed as grasping, greedy and amoral. All in all, I think the film would have benefitted with fewer stereotypes.

I saw this movie while it was playing the Newport Beach Virtual Film Festival and the film is still making its way around the festival circuit. It’s likely to get picked up by an indie distributor and end up on VOD in the not too distant future, so keep an eye out for it then.

REASONS TO SEE: Eric Roberts gives it the old college try.
REASONS TO AVOID: Reinforces negative gay stereotypes.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, sexual situations and violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first feature film as a director for Kapner.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/30/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Eat the Rich
FINAL RATING: 5/10
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Hearts and Bones

The Happy Prince (2018)


Oscar Wilde, looking decidedly like a rock star.

(2018) Biographical Drama (Sony ClassicsRupert Everett, Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Anna Chancellor, Tom Wilkinson, Béatrice Dalie, Ronald Pickup, Julian Wadham, Joshua McGuire, John Standing, Daniel Weyman, Edwin Thomas, Tom Colley, Benjamin Voisin, Ciro Petrone, André Penvern, Alexis Juliemont, Ricardo Ciccerelli, Alister Cameron, Caterina D’Andrea. Directed by Rupert Everett

 

Oscar Wilde was one of the greatest wits of his time, perhaps of all time. When he was convicted on a charge of deviant behavior, he was sentenced to prison for two years of hard labor. His health broken and fed up with England, he moved to the continent where he would live out the remaining days of his life, which were not many.

This is a passion project for director, writer and star Rupert Everett, who passed on plum roles on the off chance this film would be greenlit; it took ten years before he was able to get the film off the ground. I don’t know that Everett would agree but it was worth the wait.

The movie largely revolves around the Irish poet-playwright’s final days in France and Italy. Once the toast of London, Wilde has been deserted by all but a few diehard friends. Some, like Reggie Turner (Firth) and Robbie Ross (Thomas) generally cared for him and looked after him as best they could, which considering Wilde’s penchant for hedonism was no easy task. There was also Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Morgan), the young man whose affair with Wilde ended up being what got Wilde jailed. He is portrayed here as a selfish, childish and arrogant prick who treats Wilde like garbage, but whom Wilde still loved passionately. That, sadly, is not an unusual story; I think we’ve all known somebody who was flinded by their love for someone who was completely toxic.

The cinematography here is lush and nicely captures the gilded glory of an age in which austerity wasn’t a factor, not to mention the lovely countryside scenes in Europe. An elegiac score contributes to the overall melancholy tone. This is not a movie you’ll want to see when you need to be cheered up.

Yet, there is much to recommend it, starting first and foremost with Everett. His passion for the project is palpable throughout and his performance here is likely to be what he is remembered for. Clearly Wilde is someone who means something special to Everett and the care he puts into his every gesture and sad-eyed regret will haunt even the most jaded of filmgoers.

My one issue with the film is that it is told in a non-linear fashion and there are regular flashbacks. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to tell if you’re seeing a flashback or not at times and it ends up being unnecessarily confusing. Some critics have complained that Everett doesn’t really educate the viewer in Wilde’s body of work, but I think he does something better; he inspires the viewer to want to research it on their own.

What happened to Oscar Wilde was a massive miscarriage of justice. Although he was pardoned posthumously along with tens of thousands of other men convicted of the crime of being “indecent with men,” he deserved to be lauded in his twilight years, not despised and spat upon. It is perhaps poetic justice that today he is remembered for being one of the greatest names in English literary history and an icon to the gay community, while those who tormented him are largely forgotten.

REASONS TO SEE: Strong performances throughout, particularly by Everett. Beautifully shot.
REASONS TO AVOID: Difficult to tell what was a flashback and what isn’t.
FAMILY VALUES: The film contains plenty of adult thematic content, sexual situations including graphic nudity, profanity, violence and some drug use.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: When Oscar Wilde gets his hair cut at the beginning of his prison sentence, that’s Everett actually getting his hair cut. As this was one of the first scenes shot, leaving Everett nearly bald, he would wear a wig throughout most of the rest of the movie.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Redbox, Sling TV, Starz, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/24/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 72% positive reviews: Metacritic: 64/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Loving Vincent
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
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