Producers: Jane Rosenthal, Berry Welsh and Aaron Ryder Directors: Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky Screenplay: Thomas Bezucha, Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Morena Baccarin, Rob Delaney, David Rasche, Beverly D’Angelo, Paul Guilfoyle, Kathryn Erbe, Kelly AuCoin, Georgia Lyman, Rebecca Henderson, Molly Brown, Jimmy LeBlanc, Oliver Boyle, Imogene Forbes Wolodarsky, Laurie Hanley, Isabelle D. Trudel and Silas Pereira-Olson Distributor: Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions
Sigourney Weaver gets a juicy role and runs with it in this adaptation of Ann Leary’s 2013 about a Massachusetts realtor whose private and professional lives are impacted by her alcoholism. The part gives her the opportunity to express emotions that range from spiky sarcasm to tragic despondence, and she proves more than equal to the task. The film also benefits from the fact that she’s joined by Kevin Kline as an old flame who proves instrumental in her ultimate rehabilitation.
“The Good House” is technically a dramedy, but though there are humorous moments, especially in the first act, ultimately it’s the drama that prevails. We’re introduced to Hildy Good (Weaver) as she shows some prospective clients around Boston’s North Shore, breaking the fourth wall to talk to the screen directly about her tactics. It’s always a dangerous tactic for a film to take, but Weaver carries it off.
It turns out that Hildy’s lying to herself and others, including us. She’s an alcoholic denying her addiction and pretending to be in recovery after undergoing rehab after an intervention by her family and friends, including her daughters Tess (Rebecca Henderson), the anxious married one who blames her for ignoring her as a child, and Emily (Molly Brown), the younger one who’s off in the city trying unsuccessfully to make it as an artist, and her ex-husband Scott (David Rasche), who left her for a man. Hildy might fool them, but she drinks wine heavily at night, and Henry (Paul Guilfoyle), the AA proselytizer she sees in the mornings at the local coffee shop, knows the signs when he sees them. She indulges even more with a new friend, Rebecca McAllister (Morena Baccarin), an artist who’s recently moved into the area for the quiet she needs to paint, leaving her husband (Kelly AuCoin) to his own devices back in the city. And she rationalizes it all by arguing that her mother was a true alcoholic (as shown in a flashback in which Isabelle D. Trudel plays Hildy as an adolescent).
Hildy can’t lie to herself about the collapse of her business, however, since many of her clients have been poached by her one-time assistant Wendy (Kathryn Erbe), who’s now top dog in town. She’s desperate to score big, even as the dealership keeps calling about the payments due on the impressive SUV she ferries people around in.
But her finances don’t stop her from being generous with Tess and Emily, and even keeping up in her alimony payments to Scott, hiding her desperation, as well as her drinking, from them. She’s also remarkably tolerant of her scatterbrained receptionist (Imogene Forbes Wolodarsky), the daughter of a friend she keeps on despite her ineptitude because the girl failed to be accepted by her chosen colleges.
It’s a combination of self-interest and generosity that makes Hildy work so hard on behalf of Cassie and Patch Dwight (Georgia Lyman and Jimmy LeBlanc), whose run-down house she’s trying to sell so that they can move to a town with a school that can help their autistic son Jake (Silas Pereira-Olson); his propensity to act out is shown in a beach altercation with Rebecca’s young son Ben (Oliver Boyle).
Hildy’s efforts on behalf of the Dwights lead to her reconnection with rumpled Frank Getchell (Kline), the old flame who runs several lucrative businesses, including the garbage collection and a construction company. She approaches him to do some work on the Dwight house, and he agrees, obviously to help her. A halting late-in-life romance ensues, which follows some rom-com beats like a stint on a lobster boat (another sideline of Frank’s) and a comic dinner that follows—which in turn leads to a night together comically interrupted by Emily’s return home.
Another thread in the tangled plot involves an affair between Rebecca and Peter Newbold (Rob Delaney), the town psychiatrist and an old family friend of Hildy’s. Since Peter’s married too (unhappily, of course), when Hildy accidentally stumbles on them in a clinch (in a rather clumsily staged, implausible scene), it adds to the drama swirling around her.
In the last act, the various strands of Hildy’s story come together in a fashion that grows increasingly melodramatic. Her drinking spirals out of control, and two townspeople disappear—perhaps as a result of the big dent in her car that she can’t remember causing because of an alcohol-induced blackout. But the incident finally forces her to face the reality of her situation.
Even here, though, Weaver remains convincing despite the contrived plot machinations, and Kline is on hand to offer important support, both as character and as actor. The rest of the supporting cast doesn’t fare as well—some, like Delaney and Erbe, are actually pretty poorly used, and Beverly D’Angelo, as an old friend of Hildy’s, is thoroughly wasted. On the visual side, this film is a classy piece of work. Carl Sprague’s production design and Andrei Bowden-Schwartz’s cinematography both take advantage of the Atlantic coastline to fine effect (much of the shoot was actually done in Nova Scotia), and Theodore Shapiro adds a score that ably reflects the shifts from comedy to drama. Catherine Haight’s editing isn’t quite so successful—the last reel is cluttered, rushed and confusing—but that’s more the fault of the screenplay and direction.
What we’re left with is an uneven character study that’s redeemed to a great extent by Weaver’s exceptional lead performance.