When Hildy Good, the realtor at the core of The Good House, breaks down the fourth wall, it's an integral part of the story. Such a literary trick might be distracting or simply obnoxious in the hands of a less-experienced author.
In contrast, Hildy, an alcoholic who pretends to be in recovery, is played by Sigourney Weaver, who makes every irritated glare, scathing put-down, and dissembling explanation immensely compelling.
For the most part, the interactions between Hildy and the other small-town residents aren't quite as interesting as what she has to say to the viewer, with the notable exception of Kevin Kline's portrayal of a former high school flame. They aren't just fluff; they are the heart of the picture.
Authors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky (The Family Stone) collaborated with screenwriter Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone) to adapt Ann Leary's best-selling novel for the big screen, emphasizing the book's comedic side while occasionally stumbling over its clunky narrative mechanisms.
The film's transition to an addiction drama isn't an issue, but the circumstances that drive Hildy to a catastrophic moment of self-recognition feel like a jumble of contrivances rather than a chain of inevitability.
Hildy has long been a highly successful real estate salesperson in her birthplace on Boston's North Shore, a big fish in a little pond. However, the market is shifting, as it always does.
A slew of well-heeled investors and corporations are moving in, and a former protégé (Kathryn Erbe, in a thankless cartoon) has turned into a vicious competitor. While Hildy continues to play the excellent provider role, she helps cover the expenses of her two daughters, the married one (Rebecca Henderson) and the angsty aspiring artist (Molly Brown).
She continues to pay her ex-husband (David Rasche) alimony, even though he left her for a man (but who, like Hildy, is now single). Some of Hildy's comments to us are pulled directly from the novel, which has a prominent theme of real estate as a window to the soul.
When she walks into a kitchen, she can tell you the current condition of a relationship. Morena Baccarin and Kelly AuCoin, two well-off newcomers to the area, are among the couples who are married but not happy (Laurie Hanley).
There's no need for a kitchen audit to tell Hildy that Rebecca, played by Baccarin, has become a confidante. However, other than serving as story devices, the stories of the gathered characters have little depth.
Hildy's alcoholic, throaty acquaintances, Beverly D'Angelo and Paul Guilfoyle, a 12-step veteran at the local coffee shop, are less about plot and more about narrative color, showing Hildy's lifetime relationships in the neighborhood.
Despite her arrogant demeanor, this proud descendant of a Salem “witch” is exceptionally striking. Hildy devises a restoration plan for a working-class couple (Georgia Lyman and Jimmy LeBlanc) yearning to transfer to a larger town and a better school for their autistic kid (Silas Pereira-Olson).
Frank (Kline), a blue-collar slob who happens to be one of the town's wealthiest men and the owner of a booming garbage-collection firm, is an essential component of that strategy. With their flirting and bickering, Hildy and Frank bring the narrative to a new level as they stop at the gas station to fill up.
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“The butcher's daughter has gone fancy-pants,” Frank mutters as he listens to the Argent song playing on his truck radio (one of the numerous boomer-friendly tracks punctuating the soundtrack).
Hildy's conversational efforts should be focused on Frank and the rest of us. Most of the individuals she interacts with annoy, disappoint, or enrage her. Imogene Forbes Wolodarsky, the director's daughter, performs superbly as her inept, self-absorbed young helper in the film. While Hildy is unapologetically judgemental and acutely perceptive, her blind spot only applies to her personal life.
Her family arranged an intervention, which she refers to as an “ambush,” and we see the aftermath in sardonic flashbacks, so she's already out of rehab when we meet her. She pretends to be a recovering alcoholic by sipping club soda in public, but she downs bottles of merlot on the nights.
Hildy rejects her children's concerns about her drinking as unfounded, just like she refuses to acknowledge the financial burden she is under. Hildy refers to her pets as “my daughters” when she uses the term. She says, “It's not drinking if you're sipping wine.
She claims she was “born three drinks short of comfortable,” alluding to the therapeutic advantages of alcohol in a manner reminiscent of Another Round. When Hildy's mother was a “genuine alcoholic” like her mother, it was easy to distinguish between her high-functioning indulgence and her high-functioning intoxication.
As a veteran writer-producer for The Larry Sanders Show, Forbes is familiar with the tension between a professional persona and a fraying soul. Infinitely Polar Bear dealt with the topic of mental illness in a well-observed, if persistently cheery, manner. She excels at observational comedy, and so does Wolodarsky (Seeing Other People).
In The Good House, neither the superficial neighborhood developments nor the majority of current family matters is given any weight. On the other hand, Weaver is the pulsating heart of the narrative. Bezucha, meantime, has been treated to some positively deranged dialogue from the writers.
Early on in the film, the chirpy tones of Theodore Shapiro's soundtrack serve to deceive the audience: Their goal is to convince us that this is all enjoyable, like Hildy's Hildy, and we will both be surprised one day when they yank the rug out from under our feet in a way that is less therapeutic than we dread.
For the most part, they admit that drunkenness is a good feeling. When Hildy and Weaver celebrate a major real estate deal, Andrei Bowden Schwartz and the filmmakers capture the intimacy of the moment in a way that is both warm and revealing.
New England accents may be heard in the voices of only a few people in this New England-set film (the lovely seaside setting is provided by Nova Scotia). It's a comfort because many good actors have strained themselves and our belief in their ability to pronounce those local vowels (Exhibit A: Mystic River). Because she was born and raised in Massachusetts, Hildy's non-Boston accent may indicate her global, business-oriented outlook.
As opposed to Hildy's self-consciousness, Frank's regional accent conveys his humble upbringing; he doesn't care what others think of him, as opposed to her. Kline portrays a charming hero with his calm demeanor and understated performance.
They may be rom-com characters, but Hildy and Frank's first date was replete with the sound of cracking the lobster shell and gushing lobster juice. Regardless of how formulaic their relationship may be, you can't help but pull for these elderly lovers.
The Ice Storm, Ang Lee's masterwork and one of the greatest films about American suburbia, is a previous collaboration between the two performers. As a result of Hildy's success, her town will be transformed into one of those affluent hotspots dotted with second houses and opulent mansions.
Neither the neighborhood nor the real estate industry is addressed in depth in The Good House. The novel raises many issues, yet even Hildy's inner anguish comes across as too tidy. There's something genuine and nasty igniting in the film's intelligent comedic insights — and notably the performances of its two excellent stars.”