Review: 'The Good House' Just Good Enough

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday September 30, 2022

Sigourney Weaver in "The Good House"
Sigourney Weaver in "The Good House"  (Source:Michael Tompkins/Courtesy of Lionsgate / Roadside Attractions)

Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline are each a good reason to watch just about anything. They're both stars in co-directors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky's big-screen adaptation of Ann Leary's novel "The Good House." They carry the film with ease, though the movie does come with enough heart and subtle humor to win you over for its running time — though it may not linger for long in your mind.

The story centers on Hildy (Weaver), a highly functional alcoholic who's full of rationalizations as to why she doesn't have "a problem" the way her mother did. "The Good House" is stuffed with symbolism that feels novelistically appropriate, but superficial. Hildy's surname is Good; she was at one time the top realtor on the North Shore of Massachusetts, a place long esteemed in popular culture for its salty air and scenic ocean views.

This being a New England-set story, Hildy is also a many-greats-over granddaughter of "the first accused witch in Salem," and she has an eerily reliable talent for picking up on people's memories and experiences, evidently by psychic means — an idea that's established early on, and turns out to be possibly significant in a transformative twist, but (thankfully) is not overplayed.

But if this movie is more domestic drama than "Witches of Eastwick," it's still pretty laden with froth. Hildy zips around town in a nice car, the payments on which she's fallen behind. She's perpetually taking care of everyone around her, including her adult daughters (despite their insistence that she's not the "maternal" type and never gave them enough motherly love). She even finds herself befriending an emotionally fragile newcomer (Morena Baccarin, luminous in an inconsistently written role).

But for all her Yankee self-sufficiency, Hildy's treading water. Ever since her family "ambushed" her with an intervention and sent her off to rehab, at which point her former assistant moved in to take over the local real estate market, she's been left with the slowly crumbling facade of a once-bustling career. The detritus of her collapsing life includes an inattentive new assistant, a civil friendship with her ex-husband (who left her years earlier for another man), growing financial insecurity, and a long-neglected, slow-burn romance with Frank (Kline), who looks like a disheveled slob but is, in reality, one of the town's sharpest and most diversified businessmen.

It's not a situation that's conducive to sobriety, and Hildy hits the bottle frequently, turning to the camera and breaking the fourth wall as frequently as she pours herself a glass of red wine. It's not a narrative technique that serves the film well, but Weaver brings so much charm and nuance to her role that her asides, which could have been grating, feel almost natural. As the film progresses, Hildy's moments of drunkenness become more frequent, and more alarming. As she skates through episode after episode of driving under the influence and hiding her drinking from family and friends, the film's dread factor mounts. You just know that something terrible is going to happen.

Suffice it to say that the film's beats have a feel of solid, perhaps slightly blocky, craftsmanship. Everything about the movie is competent, but moments of inspiration are rare. Even Kline's New England accent is merely passable, while Weaver, despite her character's supposed lifelong residency in Massachusetts, doesn't even go there.

In other words, the film's humor doesn't have enough bounce. Its drama lacks the earthy crackle of gravitas. And it even leans a little too needlessly hard into stereotypes when it comes to Hildy's gay ex (We hear that he is "oh so dapper; he introduced me to the world of high-thread-count linens and and good wines." See what happens when gay men try to fake it in straight marriages? Their wives end up boozing... though ensconced in homes with impeccable interior design).

Like Hildy, the film is good — good enough to feel its way toward an unsurprising resolution — but nothing more, and certainly not cinematic enough to escape, let alone transcend, its novelistic roots, which wrap firmly around the flick and hold it just a little bit beyond the place where the viewer can surrender into that magical dream state that the movies call their own.

"The Good House" is in theaters starting Sept. 30.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.