What would you do for millions of dollars? More importantly, what wouldn't you do?
Dean Craig's The Estate explores these questions. In the movie, cousins Macey (Toni Collette), Savanna (Anna Farris), Richard (David Duchovny), and Beatrice (Rosemarie DeWitt) descend upon their wealthy, cranky, and dying Aunt Hilda (Kathleen Turner). They lavish her with attention and fawning adoration in the hopes of "winning" what they believe to be Hilda's sizable inheritance.
Among the group of not-so-terrific family members, the seemingly perfect Beatrice stands out. There's absolutely nothing she won't do to get that money. At one point Beatrice even asks her husband James (Ron Livingston) to have sex with Hilda thinking that will guarantee she gets the money. (To be fair, Hilda had expressed interest in having one more romantic dalliance before she died.)
"She just embodies that part of culture that wants to win at all costs and get ahead at all costs," DeWitt tells Metacritic. "She is willing to throw people she loves under the bus and you know she's going to die alone and unhappy."
Here, DeWitt talks to Metacritic about how to approach playing someone so despicable, what she thinks happens with the movie's surprise twist ending, and getting to work with Livingston, her real life husband, in this film.
What is it like to play a character who, let's be honest, is so awful?
I found that part as an actor hard. "Wow, I don't change at all. There's nothing different to play here." David Duchovny said that's how comedy works. We don't change and that's why it's fun to see people behave so badly.
With a character like this, do you create any kind of backstory in your mind to try to work out why Beatrice is the way she is or what made her this way?
I can't do that with a character like Beatrice because I wouldn't be able to justify it and I would judge her. So, instead, I try to tap into, if I could allow myself those giant vices like greed and then just play it. Broad strokes because I couldn't find the nuance. Where are all the places I don't allow myself to want what I really want? And to just go in there with, "I want! I want! I want!" And that was kind of freeing because in life we rein it in. We know we don't want to hurt other people. All decency is gone in movies like this.
Your real life husband Ron Livingston plays your husband in this and Beatrice really isn't very nice to him.
It felt so bad to talk to my husband like that. I would love to say that it was really gratifying. It wasn't really. But there was a freedom. There was a scene where it wasn't scripted and I start to try to kiss him to get him to do something I want. I would never do that with another actor, but it was fun to try to surprise Ron in that way.
You also get to work with the legendary Kathleen Turner, and no one is really nice to her character!
She's amazing and I wanted to hear her war stories. She was a movie star at a time there were really movie stars. We all saw the same movies and there wasn't so much content. She's so powerful and she's just so present that you just want to bring your A game. You don't want to be in a scene with Kathleen Turner and not deliver for her. You want her to feel like you showed up. It was thrilling.
The movie also reunites you for a second time this year with Toni Collette, who you co-starred with in the United States of Tara. Earlier this year you played sisters in HBO's The Staircase and now cousins in The Estate.
United States of Tara was ahead of its time. If that series was on now with all the niche TV we watch, we would have done it for a lot longer. We did that series back when ratings mattered. There wasn't room for kind of quirky, smaller shows. It's so fun to act with Toni. She's one of my favorites. She's so alive on screen and off. And she was actually my agent on this one. She called me and said, "Would you ever want to come to New Orleans for a month?" And later she said, "Would Ron want to do it too?"
The movie's ending is open ended. We don't know if Macey stops Savanna from burning the painting she's just discovered is worth millions of dollars. Do you think Macey got to Savanna in time?
This is what I thought when I watched it for the first time. Whoever we are as people and whatever we want — our wants, our desires — we see in that moment. Some people are like, "She has to get it because they need that money in order to be happy." Someone else is like, "I hope it's destroyed so they can really see what's important and get out of this nonsense." I like when filmmakers do that — where there's an ambiguous ending — because that's the moment the filmmaker turns the gaze on you.
What do you think happens with this family? Is this it for them? Do they see each other again?
Because we had that moment when Macey says, "Don't you remember when we all played together?", that made me realize they were real people and they were a real family. They are definitely still going to see each other again. I don't know if we are going to see them as an audience again, but I didn't feel like that was goodbye for them.
Get to Rosemarie DeWitt:
DeWitt is known for playing Don Draper's mistress Midge during the first two seasons of Mad Men (Metascore: 86). She also played Linda, the mom at the center of the custody battle in Little Fires Everywhere (69), Toni Collette's sister Charmaine in United States of Tara (72) and her sister Candace in The Staircase (80). She met her husband Livingston when they both co-starred in the short-lived Fox series Standoff (37). On the movie side, she is perhaps best known for playing the title character in 2008's Rachel Getting Married (82).