A solid foundation of humor and heart in “The Good House”
Published 12:40 pm Monday, October 31, 2022
Drifting into Tryon Theatre this week is “The Good House,” a caring and thoughtful exploration of love, relationships, and aging in the small (and fictional) seaside New England town of Wendover. “The Good House” is an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Ann Leary.
The novel employs first-person narration, including an internal monologue of its main character, providing an opinionated interpretation of events and other characters directly to the audience. In translating this internal monologue to the screen, the filmmakers have employed the habit of breaking the fourth wall. The film’s main character, real estate broker Hildy Good (the ageless Sigourney Weaver), routinely addresses the viewer, directly through the screen. In doing so, Hildy provides much of the film’s comedy, but also creates much of the narrative tension, with her asides telling quite a different story from her behavior and experiences as they’re played out on screen.
The tensions in the film’s plot, which feed the majority of Hildy’s commentary, are Hildy’s career and her drinking. At the opening of the film, two details are made clear: that Hildy’s real estate career is not what it once was, nor what it could have been, and that Hildy’s drinking is viewed by those in her life as problematic, despite her constant assertions that she has an emotional problem, not a drinking problem. “The Good House” is a film about an alcoholic, but not necessarily a film about alcoholism. It is a film that highlights a uniquely womanly empathy for the experience of drinking in general, both the times that it is, and isn’t, problematic. Though, to reduce “The Good House” to solely its tensions would do it a great disservice. “The Good House” is also a film about Hildy’s relationships, professional and familial, platonic and romantic.
At the center of these relationships is the one that Hildy has with Frank (the ever-lovable Kevin Kline), her old high school boyfriend, and current town handyman/grouch. As Hildy’s professional concerns overlap with Frank’s services, and the possibility of selling his family property, they began to sweetly and tentatively explore their former romance. Weaver and Kline’s chemistry is well established, see “Dave” (1993 Reitman) and “The Ice Storm” (1997 Lee), and that chemistry is re-explored to delightfully charming and believable ends in “The Good House.” Their dynamic feels lived-in and authentic, with warm affection and flirtatious ribbing delivered in equal measure. While the film has a strong supporting cast, its greatest strength lies in the chemistry of these leads and their respective ineffable charms, which both combine for wondrous results.
“The Good House” is well-constructed and thoughtfully designed. The film does not break any barriers, nor tread any new territory, but its merit persists all the same. Art needn’t always externally challenge us. Its capacity to provoke introspection, and provide comfort, are equally deserving of praise, praise earned by this film. For any viewer in search of a balance between tugging on the heartstrings and tickling the funny bone, we invite you to visit Wendover with us and enjoy “The Good House!”