In a world of action and superhero popcorn films, sometimes it’s nice to watch a grown-up movie. These low-key, acting feasts used to be a mainstay in Hollywood. They’re comfortable, complex and dare I say, adult? This week, The Good House provides a much-needed entry into this oft-ignored genre. With a fierce cast and beautiful locations, is it worth taking a trip to see this one in theaters? Read on, kids. Read on.
The Good House follows Hildy (Sigourney Weaver), a real estate agent in coastal Massachusetts who wants to live her own life. Business isn’t bad, her obnoxious millennial children are largely out of the house and she’s ready for the next stage in life … which she might enjoy thanks to a harmless flirtation with a local contractor (Kevin Kline).
However, all at the same time, the personal demons she struggled to keep at bay are beginning to rear their ugly heads. Will people see through the charade she’s built up her entire life? Morena Baccarin and Rob Delaney co-star in the movie. Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky direct the film from a script they co-wrote with Thomas Beaucha.
While The Good House looks fascinating on paper, the finished product feels confusing. The movie isn’t sure what it wants to be. Is this a character drama? A mid-range adult rom-com? A quippy comedy? Why are they breaking the fourth wall so often?
The Good House is a strange concoction of all these elements mixed into a big bowl. And to be honest, there are too many tones at play here to make any of them work well.
Beaucha’s script isn’t light. Instead, the film presents a heady examination of some rather intense subjects, including alcoholism and suicide. However, joining everything is Hildy’s decidedly quippy fourth-wall-breaking narration. While Hildy’s voiceover is vital in introducing audiences to this world, it is, at the same time, oddly distancing, especially as we learn more about this woman.
As the narrative takes shape, it quickly becomes clear how complex a character Hildy is. Thanks to a (as per usual) spot-on performance from Sigourney Weaver, audiences become intimately acquainted with her many layers. Her history, psychology and desires work together in crafting a woman who might not be likable, but we understand her.
Hildy’s life hasn’t been easy, and a specter of mental illness hangs over her family. Through all this, she’s built major internal walls to protect herself. So much so that she cannot see her own problems. There’s serious denial going on here.
As such, while this layered performance is believable thanks to Weaver, the character’s flippant manner in the narration grows almost alienating, particularly as her struggles become more visible toward the end of the second act.
While Sigourney Weaver is the face of The Good House, Kevin Kline is the movie’s heart. These two performers have been (and will always be) excellent. This is particularly true here. As local contractor (and Hildy’s paramour) Frank Getchell, Kline functions as a likable audience surrogate. Only through his eyes can we see and understand Hildy’s struggles.
Kline jumps into this rich and vital man with both feet. Frank is a vivid character who often feels a million miles away from those Kline played in the past. There are moments where Kline is so deep into this character he’s almost unrecognizable. So, while there are instances in which the movie apparently doesn’t respect him (we’re watching through Hildy’s perspective, after all), Frank is clear-eyed, honest and always likable.
While this cast is packed with talented performers outside of Kline, The Good House struggles to find a sense of heart and likability. This hangs over a lot of the characters beyond Weaver. Thanks to the performances, this fully developed world is populated with complicated characters. However, the construction of the narrative perspective doesn’t allow these elements to work well together.
Each of these people is stuck smack dab amid their own stories. For example, Rebecca McAllister (Baccarin) is an unhappy housewife doing everything she can to escape an unhappy marriage. Meanwhile, Peter (Delaney) struggles mightily with depression and professional problems.
Unfortunately, in the stylistic decisions chosen to tell this story, these characters don’t receive the development needed to truly hone in on their humanity. They’re always on the outside of the narrative looking in. Ultimately, The Good House crafts them as supporting characters in Hildy’s world, nothing more.
The Good House should hit it out of the metaphorical park on paper. Some great pieces are coming together here. Unfortunately, nothing quite manages to gel. Despite well-crafted performances, questionable narrative choices hang over the story, pulling the audience back from this intimately crafted world. The Good House is an example of painfully missed opportunities.
The Good House opens in theaters everywhere on September 30, 2022.
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