From this photo of Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline leaning back on a sailboat with smiles on their faces, you’d think their new movie, “The Good House,” is a Nancy Meyers romcom about an older couple finding love again. You couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, that scene doesn’t appear anywhere in the body of the movie — it’s only part of an end credits sequence.
Instead, “The Good House” is a drama about Hildy Good (Weaver), an alcoholic realtor in upscale Wendover, Massachusetts. Her drinking was such a problem that her family staged an intervention to convince her to enter rehab. She didn’t go, making all sorts of excuses and convincing herself that since she only drank in the evening, she didn’t have an issue. Now, eighteen months later, she’s still downing bottles of wine, driving drunk, and often blacking out.
Through all of this, Hildy narrates the plot developments to camera, as if we, as viewers, are co-conspirators. She’s been in Wendover long enough to know everyone — and their secrets — but she’s having money problems because former protégé Wendy (Kathryn Erbe) has been getting more clients and selling more homes. The rival realtor is written as a stereotypical villain, although there’s no evidence she’s done anything underhanded and, frankly, has little to do with the plot.
You may be wondering why I haven’t said anything yet about Kline’s character, Frank. That’s because he’s almost an afterthought for the first half of the movie, then revealed as an old romantic partner of Hildy’s who she’s obviously going to get involved with again. For some reason, Kline uses a low, growly voice he must have borrowed from Jeff Bridges. Unfortunately, Kline and Weaver don’t have anything close to the sparkling screen chemistry they displayed in “The Ice Storm” and “Dave.”
Worse, how about this dialogue?
Hildy: Want to come over for dinner?
Hildy: Yeah, it’s this meal people eat at the end of the day. It’s pretty popular.
Blame writer/directors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, who not only wrote that exchange, but throughout “The Good House” rely too heavily on flashbacks and Hildy’s fourth-wall-breaking commentary to fill giant holes in the storyline. Moreover, they have their characters repeatedly drop the word “wicked” into conversation to prove they’re from Massachusetts. Or maybe they’ve seen “Good Will Hunting” too many times. I’ve spent quite a bit of time around people from that region and never heard any of them utter the word “wicked” in a sentence even once. Not everyone in the state speaks like a resident of south Boston.
I can’t blame any of the supporting cast members, who do their best with sub-par material. Morena Baccarin — who burst onto the scene in the 2009 sci-fi series “V,” in which she played an alien lizard-woman — is Hildy’s secret drinking buddy. David Rasche is Hildy’s ex-husband who left her for another man. Paul Guilfoyle is Henry, who’s always sitting outside the local coffee shop and encouraging Hildy to join him at an AA meeting. Speaking of that shop, Forbes and Wolodarsky also give us a scene in which Hildy is outraged to find it’s charging four dollars for a cup of coffee, as if Starbucks didn’t make that a common price point some twenty years ago.
This is a movie that wants to say something serious about alcoholism, but whatever that message is gets lost because the writers are trying to fill every spot on a Hack Screenplay bingo card. Worse, they wasted the massive talents of both Weaver and Kline.
I give “The Good House” a 3 out of 10. Opens today in theaters.