Playing with words and mood, The Good House manages a surprising balancing act between lightweight tone and serious subject. The movie puts Sigorney Weaver front and center as a realtor named Hildy Good—so the title offers amusing double meaning. Weaver’s initial narration turns into a promo speech as she woos potential home buyers, but then she turns and finishes her spiel by looking straight at the camera and talking to viewers. The technique can feel forced in other projects, but it suits The Good House. This happens because novelist Ann Leary ultimately exposes Good as an unrealistic, unreliable narrator.
Directors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, who co-wrote the screenplay with Thomas Bezucha, sneak into this revelation through Weaver’s well-known screen presence as a woman strong enough to go up against gorilla poachers or space aliens. Weaver tells us how good her Good is, a great realtor who weathers life’s tribulations and just might get involved with a guy played by Kevin Kline. So the whimsical story starts, but then—oh, by the way—Good drinks a lot. And thus, the story’s real and serious topic of alcoholism creeps in after luring audiences with a pretense of lightweight romance. It works because the real dishonesty comes from what Good tells herself—her narration simply repeats the justifications she uses to continue drinking.
Yes, it gets dramatic and potentially devastating, but Weaver and the creative team tap dance beyond the usual pitfalls of stories about alcoholics. Instead of finishing in either a wave of depression or fanciful happiness, The Good House builds itself on solid ground of hopeful reality.