Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Good House: Movie Review

A meandering tale of a life in crisis.

The Good House has a curious relationship with genre. Directors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky introduced the movie as a comedy saying the highlight of Ann Leary’s novel is how funny it is and the caustic wit of the lead character. Hildy is caustic alright, but Sigourney Weaver’s take on her is a tragic character. An alcoholic who lies to everyone close to her and alienates everyone else. Very few laughs to be found.   2021

Directed by: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky

Screenplay by: Thomas Bezuchas, Maya Forbes, and Wallace Wolodarsky
Based on the novel by Ann Leary

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline

Hildy is a realtor in a small coastal town in Massachusetts. The beginning is sharp – Hildy’s desperate attempts to draw in wealthy couples seem very contrary to the type of people who choose to settle in a gritty, laid-back, non-affluent area of New England. Wendover is a very New England town: varying degrees of a Boston accent, friendly people who keep to themselves, and lobster for most meals. Every aspect of this town made me smile, the filmmakers definitely got this part right.

What I like is that Hildy’s gradual tail-spin of a life crisis is occurring when she’s 60-something. It feels more natural than similar movies that focus on 20-something alcoholics. Money has become tight, for many obvious reasons: the realty business isn’t great in a town like Wendover, and it’s definitely not great when you have to spend money on fancy cars to present a more affluent version of yourself that is not reality, and Hildy has a soft-spot for family and former clients who lean on her (mostly because they believe the not-real version of herself that she presents to potential clients).

The issue is that that’s most of the movie – business isn’t great, she drinks, she lies, she drinks some more, and then the drinking really starts messing with her interpretation of reality. She falls for local carpenter Frank (Kevin Kline). He’s gruff and secretly kind, but Kline’s perfectly nuanced performance softens him into a non-cliché character. He’s too good for Hildy.

The movie meanders a lot. The coastal setting and the beautiful cinematography really work for a meandering story. However the emotional connection to Hildy is missing and the story starts dragging a lot. It’s really not a romance and Kline isn’t in it enough; it’s really just a tragic dramatic character study and it needs some of that comedy that was promised to us. The Good House eventually builds to a small, affecting mystery and delivers a fitting and satisfying conclusion, it just took its sweet time to get there.