The Good House: Dropped Stitches, by David Bax
There used to be a thing called movie stars. The idea was that some actors shone so brightly that their presence in a movie was enough to warrant seeing it. Old-fashioned as I am, I still subscribe to that model with certain actors. Sigourney Weaver happens to be one of them. And so Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky‘s The Good House, in which Weaver not only stars but narrates and talks directly to the viewer, would seem to be perfect for me. Instead, it’s a reminder that, even in the good old days, the movie star thing didn’t work 100% of the time.
Kevin Kline is also a pretty big draw for me, as is the fact that The Good House represents he and Weaver’s third time acting together, after 1993’s Dave and 1997’s The Ice Storm (it’s four if you count the fact that they both did voices for 2008’s The Tale of Despereaux, which I don’t). But even here, as ex-flames who reunite later in life after each has earned their own small town pariah status in their own way, something fails to convince.
What does feel authentic is the presence of 1960s tunes all over the soundtrack. From the Yardbirds to the Zombies to Sam Cooke, there’s a harmony between this music and the attempts of Weaver’s Hildy Good (hence the title) and Kline’s Frank Getchell to recapture something of their youth, a time when these songs would have been on the radio.
One other song that shows up is Donovan’s “Season of the Witch.” That one’s been in more movies and television shows than I can count but here, at least, it’s used to good effect. Hildy is seen as something of a witch, by the family she’s alienated with her alcoholism, by the seaside town where she sells overpriced homes to wealthy newcomers and, when she’s drunk enough to admit it, by herself.
Things aren’t so cut and dried, of course, especially between Hildy and the rest of the Good clan. The Good House‘s screenplay comes from Thomas Bezucha (with additional credits for Forbes and Wolodarsky). If you’re familiar with his impressive body of work, from 2000’s Big Eden to 2005’s The Family Stone all the way to 2020’s under-heralded Let Him Go, you’ll know that he’s not one to let dysfunction keep a family from loving one another, in whatever way they can.
But Forbes and Wolodarsky, it seems, aren’t quite as in love with Bezucha’s work as I am. The difference between The Good House and the three other films listed above is that Bezucha didn’t direct this one. Forbes and Wolodarsky don’t appear to trust the material and aren’t able to settle into the confident stillness that defines Bezucha’s own work behind the camera. The Good House has all the ingredients. They’ve just been overcooked.