Based on the novel of the same name by Ann Leary, THE GOOD HOUSE gives us a year in the life of Hildy Good (Sigourney Weaver), descendant of the first woman accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials, and the most successful realtor on Boston’s North Shore. She’s tough, smart, and her family’s financial rock. She knows how to sell a house, and how to keep a civil tongue in her head when dealing with her gay ex-husband (David Rasche) or the protégé (Kathryn Erbe) now stealing her business. As the reflexively ironic narrator of the film, often speaking directly to the camera, she has a way of sardonically, and accurately, assessing everyone and everything around her. Except herself. Hildy Good’s most successful accomplishment is denial, and this is the year that it all falls apart.
Hildy is the perfect unreliable narrator, charming us with her wit and intelligence, and seducing us into wanting to believe in the careful façade she maintains for the small town of Westport, where she has lived all her life. Underneath, though, money is tight, her two adult daughters are struggling with more than money problems, and the drinking that already earned her one intervention from her family is slowly becoming a problem again, albeit now a secret one. Desperate to sell a house, any house, and turn things around, she reaches out to her high-school boyfriend who is now a successful contractor, Frank Getchell (Kevin Kline) to refurbish a house whose owners need the sale as much as Hildy does. Old memories flare, drinks are consumed, and the two rekindle the flame much to the dismay of themselves, Hildy’s daughters, and the town.
Co-directors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, who co-wrote the script with Thomas Bezucha, have created a showpiece for Weaver with carefully crafted writing that uses comedy to precisely express the story’s tragedy as they parse the conflicted psyche of a woman on the edge. In return, Weaver is perfection. As Hildy opens up to the audience about mistakes she has made, and justifies the mistakes that she is currently making, the cool denial of deeper problems escape her even as Weaver subtly conveys that Hildy’s ability to keep denying the obvious is slipping. This is a complicated woman, not an easy one, but one that is impossible to dislike, for us or the others in her small town, even when her transgressions slowly move towards lines that should not be crossed.
Gorgeously filmed with the same understated elegance used by the directors with their keen eye for detail, the nuances of smalltown life, with all that’s said and unsaid. From why Hildy keeps an incompetent assistant employed as her business floats on a bubble, to the casual barbs exchanged with an acquaintance occupying the same spot in front of the local café day after day, to the fibs told to save face, and the ones told to one-up someone without actually insulting them, the fabric of this small community form a keen subtext to the primary action.
THE GOOD HOUSE constantly surprises with its ability to disarm and amuse while telling its dark story. Never saccharine, never pandering, it is a bracing film, all the more moving for being so very astringent