If there’s ever a bittersweet sight for a cinephile, it’s that of a ‘darling’ actress — or actor — delivering an excellent performance in a production that isn’t at all. Take the formidable Sigourney Weaver who, unsurprisingly, is that again, formidable, in The Good Housethe very average adaptation of a successful novel.
Set in the very photogenic New England (Nova Scotia in fact), the plot focuses on the fate of Hilby, a real estate agent specializing in the sale of luxury properties. Brilliant, elegant and endowed with a sense of repartee assassin, Hilby seems to lead a most enviable existence.
However, she quickly reveals to the spectators during one of her many narrative asides, she has just returned from rehab after being the subject of an intervention by her two adult daughters and her ex-husband. From relapses to blackoutHilby will have to face the facts: once a “functional” alcoholic, she is increasingly “dysfunctional”.
But here it is, Hilby is struggling to tear herself away from the anesthetic denial that has served her so well, or so she believes, throughout her life.
This means that Hilby is a captivating protagonist with real psychological depth. Around her gravitates a constellation of secondary characters, each with their own secrets. Without forgetting, in the background, this idyllic little town. In short, there was a lot of potential there.
However, the magic does not operate. The said secondary characters are all one-dimensional, and a simple confidence here and there does not change anything (so-and-so is cheating on his spouse with a married woman, so-and-so is in depression, so-and-so is helpless in the face of her child’s autism , etc.). This is particularly the case of Frank, played by Kevin Kline, who finds here his co-star of Dave and of icestorm (The ice storm): the actor may put all his charm into it, his score boils down to playing the good guy on duty.
Treated on the surface, the cover-ups and misfortunes of each other end up creating an impression of overflow rather than complexity; like a miniseries that would have been compressed into a feature film.
Without momentum or vision
There is also a host of interesting elements which the film does not, in the end, do much, for example this talent of Hilby, whose ancestor was hanged for witchcraft, for cold reading.
Jagged, the rhythm consists of a series of downtimes and dramatic upheavals (a late turnaround involving the disappearance of a child appears particularly flat). Visually, despite the natural splendor of the filming location, it often looks like a banal Hallmark production or, at best, one of those romantic-melodramatic films that Netflix shoots on the chain without promoting them too much.
In sum, The Good House is as devoid of narrative momentum as it is of vision. But there is Sigourney Weaver: every time she speaks to the camera, that she speaks to us, we would follow her anywhere.
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“The Good House”: great actress, small film
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