The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/events/film/2022-09-30/the-good-house/

The Good House

Rated R, 114 min. Directed by Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Morena Baccarin, Rob Delaney, David Rasche, Kathryn Erbe, Paul Guilfoyle.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Sept. 30, 2022

Addiction dramas tend to run the gamut between unrepentant (say, Leaving Las Vegas) and redemptive (everything else). It’s a tricky task for stories of the latter variety to engagingly follow the well-worn formula – revelry, realization, resistance, reckoning, recovery – while avoiding the trap of heavy-handedness. It’s helpful to have a lead who’s up to the task, and it’s a good thing that The Good House has the very good Sigourney Weaver navigating the road to sobriety. But she’s not quite enough to evade the morass of moralizing.

The screenplay is a crisp one, taken as it is from the novel by Ann Leary – author, columnist, NPR host, and, along with her spouse Denis, ex-wino – and brought to the screen by Larry Sanders Show royalty Maya Forbes and Simpsons royalty Wally Wolodarsky. When Weaver, playing Hildy Good, a real estate agent in the scenic New England town of Wendover (Nova Scotia, actually), turns away from the young couple she is shepherding around a property to break the fourth wall, there’s hope the film is heading for slightly edgier territory. This conceit, viewer as confidant (or sponsor, perhaps), works up to a point – Hildy’s asides of comic contradiction and rationalization are dead-on – but ultimately they are a crutch to the film, opportunities to insert verbatim monologues from Leary's novel. And as adept as Weaver is at this two-faced performance, even she seems to grow weary of it, as Hildy performs all manner of emotional gymnastics. To wit: She must hide her drinking from her family, who held an intervention for her resulting in a stint at rehab that didn’t take. She’s financially overextended, and her once assistant/protégé (Erbe) is stealing all of her clients. Not to mention her husband of 20 years (Rasche) left her for another man, and her new drinking buddy/neighbor (Baccarin) is becoming concerned about Hildy’s frequent blackouts. And let’s not forget the death of Hildy’s mother, a specter of generational trauma hanging over it all. At least she has old flame Kevin Kline, an unflappable fellow townie who steps in as her knight errant.

The Good House has some great qualities. It’s a familiar, cathartic mirror for those who have dealt with, or have loved ones who have dealt with, addiction. There is an insider knowledge that infuses the film with authenticity. But it also has some not-so-great qualities. For every subversive feint in the narrative, there’re a few swerves into maudlin Lifetime-movie country. A subplot involving an unstable boy with autism is a tacked-on plot device to add some tension, while Hildy’s breakthrough reconciling her mother’s death is resolved in a clipped, offhanded montage oddly removed of any emotional weight. It’s a mixed bag for sure, but The Good House ultimately displays enough self-assurance to overshadow its contrivances.

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