A couple of months ago I noticed that The Good House was coming to a local art house movie theater. I had no idea what it was about, but it looked like a mature love story starring Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline.
The film came and went within a week or two, which is the norm for non Marvel comic book or Star Wars films. In and out, today’s film marketing reality. I’m surprised this film got made at all, given the subject matter and the cast of senior citizens.
The Good House was tough to watch. The subject matter is downbeat and it’s difficult to see Weaver’s character struggle with alcohol addiction, and unresolved emotional issues. Weaver is fantastic in the role of Hildy Good, a divorced real estate agent facing hard times, who self-medicates with alcohol while she struggles to support everyone with her failing real estate agency. Better days are behind Hildy as her world is closing in around her. Uplifting Hallmark flick? Not so much.
The film has an unusual method of storytelling, with Hildy sometimes talking directly to the camera, breaking action. When she drinks, there are her hallucinations, which make viewers unsure of whether it’s fantasy or reality. This is Hildy’s world, justifying her actions to essentially herself, a world of psychological pain and the embarrassment caused by her drinking.
The Good House is based on the novel by Ann Leary, and adapted for the screen by Thomas Bezucha, Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky. Forbes and Wolodarsky also direct. In addition to Weaver and Kline, the cast includes veteran actors Beverly D’Angelo, David Rasche, Kathryn Erbe and Paul Guilfoyle.
This is the third film that Weaver and Kline have made together: The Ice Storm (1997) and Dave (1993). Kline, in a supporting role, plays Frank Getchell, a man of many businesses, but is most identified with his trash collection company. Frank is not the kind of man one might think interests Hildy. She is refined and educated, a professional; whereas Frank is a hands-on entrepreneur: carpenter, fisherman, etc. He rough around the edges, but is a kind and loyal guy. Really, he’s just the kind of guy she needs.
The film has some humor, but it’s a serious drama, with a dark, troubled protagonist. She is the hub of the family and the responsibility, along with her fractured past, is pulling her under. It’s not great a film, but certainly a very good. Just be prepared for Hildy’s difficult life of addiction. It’s not pretty, and much of that is due to Weaver’s strong and vulnerable performance.
Weaver (age 73) and Kline (age 75) proved a long time ago that they have onscreen chemistry, and they do here too. The ages of the characters are not given in the film, but I’m guessing the mid 60s. Neither Weaver or Kline look their actual ages, which is amazing, and adds to the believability of their characters, who both have vitality and a definite verve. These are not old characters, they are not retired, nor is age a theme in the film.
I’m a movie credit watcher; credits tell a story, in addition to supporting the story. I noticed a string of production entities involved in this film. That’s not unusual for small or difficult to sell non-commercial films. Weaver and Kline are well-known actors, but either are box office draws.
Films like The Good House are difficult to get made, even with award-winning actors Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline attached. It helps to start with a best selling novel, but that’s not a given since the film is about old people and involves addiction and suicide. Two of the film’s production companies are Tribeca Productions (Robert De Niro) and Amblin Partners (Steven Spielberg), which tells me they wanted to see a small film brought to the screen, despite the limited box office potential. The film grossed $2.2M in limited release. The film should have a healthy life on streaming platforms.
Adult dramas and comedies, featuring mature actors are more and more direct to streaming films. Sure, they might get a token, art-house release for contractual requirements and to qualify for award programs, but there is no big screen demand. Movie theaters are going the way of vinyl records, never completely gone. Then a comeback.
The movie industry befuddles me, I no longer understand the economics or the major emphasis on superheroes, graphic horror, and CGI. Obviously, Hollywood or the new private equity investors have much different ideas from what entertains me. I get a lot of razzing because I like to own copies of filmed entertainment and music. I’m more digital than analog, but I do like to feel the pages of the book I read and listen to the warm tones of a vinyl album. Late at night I might view Dr. Strangelove or All the President’s Men from my film library. Those are digital (BluRay) but not digital (streaming). I never claimed to be uncomplicated.