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#TIFF21 Review: The Good House (Gala Presentations)

September 17, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Sigourney Weaver stars in The Good House as Hildy Good, an older real estate agent with a drinking problem. It’s a plum role for Weaver, as the character chews up the screen and breaks the fourth wall, addressing us directly as she grapples with whether or not to put down the bottle.

Directed by Maya Forbes (who previously made the 2014 film Infinitely Polar Bear), and her partner Wallace Wolodarsky, The Good House is the sort of thoroughly mid-level adult dramedy that could have easily been made in the early to mid 2000s. The story is taken from a 2003 novel by Ann Leary, which Forbes and Wolodarsky adapted with screenwriter Thomas Bezucha. And it’s a film that, for the most part, ambles along in a breezy, enjoyable way that seems like it would be paired well with a glass of wine (as crass as that may sound for a story about a heavy drinker).

Hildy is trying to regain her crown as real estate queen in the small town of Wendover, Massachusetts (the film was actually shot in Nova Scotia, standing in for New England), where her family has lived for hundreds of years, with a literal witch in her lineage. But she herself is getting priced out of the town and can barely afford living there anymore, with her realtor career not helped by her infamous reputation for drunken self-sabotage.

The film follows Hildy, whose husband (David Rashce) left her for a man some years earlier, as she attempts to restart things with an old flame, handyman Frank Getchell (Kevin Kline). Meanwhile, her adult daughters Tess (Rebecca Henderson) and Emily (Molly Brown) are trying to monitor her drinking following a failed intervention. Hildy befriends a new resident (Monica Baccarin) who becomes a late night wine buddy, and there is also some drama with town psychiatrist Peter Newbold (Rob Delaney), who likes to psychoanalyze others but has his own problems.

The film mostly plays out as a low-key character study that blends some elements of comedy and drama, but it takes a sharp turn in the last act with a dark tonal shift that is actually somewhat jarring. There is a vaguely supernatural element that feels poorly staged, and I’m also really not crazy about how the film uses an autistic kid (Silas Pereira-Olson), the son of Hildy’s clients, as a melodramatic plot device. It’s the most major misstep in the film, and throws the movie off course in the final twenty minutes, before Forbes and Wolodarsky mostly correct things at the end.

The film has been on the back burner for quite some time, and was originally going to star Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, but the leads Forbes and Wolodarsky have secured do make it their own. Weaver is entertaining to watch as a self-destructive business woman with a wine habit, and her comments to the screen are delivered in an appealingly self-aware way. Kline also does enjoyable work as the down to earth love interest. Despite the aforementioned missteps, The Good House is a mostly agreeable and mildly entertaining film, that plays like a perfectly fine early-2000s adult dramedy.

Public Screenings:

Wednesday, September 15th – 7:00 PM at Roy Thomson Hall

Thursday, September 16th – 7:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

Saturday, September 18th – 11:00 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox

Saturday, September 18th – 5:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9th to 18th.

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