28 November 2023

Sigourney Weaver gives a spirited performance in The Good House

Sigourney Weaver will forever be linked to her career-defining and iconic performance as Ripley in Alien. This sci-fi horror from Ridley Scott is a landmark film, still revered, which, much like playing Bond, has made it difficult for Weaver to extricate herself. While Ripley’s shadow has endured, this hasn’t stopped Weaver from delivering strong performances across her decades-spanning career. Gorillas in the Mist, Working Girl, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest and Avatar are just a few of her career highlights. 

Having managed to stay fiercely relevant since her breakthrough performance in 1979, Weaver’s typically been drawn to defiant and spirited characters with a natural gravitas. Her screen presence echoes this, having been cast in roles enhanced by her essence, leaning into this strength. While she’s poked fun at this sentiment, playing blonde bombshell Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest, Weaver has never been far from the genre that launched her career. This is why it’s so refreshing to watch her performance in The Good House

The Good House on Showmax

The Good House is an adaptation of Ann Leary’s novel of the same name, which centres on high-functioning alcoholic realtor, Hildy Good. Tackling this complex character, Sigourney Weaver taps into the emotional turmoil of a woman struggling to balance her personal and professional life. Down-to-earth, she injects a sense of authenticity and mystique to Hildy, who sells houses by day and reads palms by night. Alluding to her psychic abilities and making quips like “I left my broomstick at home”, this layers the drama rather than reroutes the genre.  

Often obscured by her science fiction background, every now and then Weaver gets a meaty role that showcases her true ability. Typically relegated to a supporting role, she’s in almost every scene of The Good House, adding a sense of continuity to this poignant character portrait. Centred on Hildy, the story is told through her lens, breaking the fourth wall at times to discuss her predicament with the audience. While not played for its comedic slant, it’s executed with sharp wit, making this The Sigourney Show. Adding an authentic undercurrent to this coming-of-age drama, Weaver’s level-headed enough to ride the rise and fall of the tides. 

Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver in The Good House

The Good House is essentially Weaver’s wheelhouse but Kevin Kline’s supporting performance is a welcome counterpoint as Hildy and Frank figure out their complicated yet enduring relationship. Coming from a place of mild dysfunction, past regrets overshadow Hildy’s interactions, without Weaver falling back on melodrama to access her inner world. Kline shines a light as the whatever-works Frank, piercing the heaviness with his easy-going quirk and off-handed charm as an old high school sweetheart. 

Directed by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, the co-directors have collaborated several times before on animated features and heartwarming dramas such as A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey. Tempered by Thomas Bezucha, the writer behind The Family Stone and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, there’s a deeper and more contemplative undercurrent to The Good House. Grappling with themes around love, loss and second chances, it’s adept at steering clear of over sentimentality and spoon-feeding, offering more considered drama and subtle touches.  

The Good House is on Showmax

The Good House has dabs of comedy and romance but it has a similar dramatic intensity to August Osage County, peppered with the charm and star power of Something’s Gotta Give. Both Oscar nominees themselves, the darker and sometimes prickly moments find resonance with the stellar Meryl Streep-led tragicomedy, especially around Thanksgiving. Then, the love-in-later-life optimism and charm of the Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson 50-something romance bubbles up against the backdrop of the small seaside town. 

Having an unusual depth and complexity, The Good House is compelled by its co-stars in Weaver and Kline. Yet, as much nuance as these actors bring to their roles, the story’s established by its ensemble who help instil a sense of place to this picturesque New England town. Pushing off a host of townsfolk characters, The Good House captures a Gilmore Girls dimension to our experience of Hildy’s small town “where secrets are hard to keep” and coffee costs $4.50. While not as quirky as Gilmore Girls, the film’s also well-written, maintaining a realistic verve as Hildy learns a few lessons and navigates a rocky path to self-acceptance.  

Moving at the speed of life, The Good House is a contemplative, thoughtful and well-made drama that hinges on intimate conversations and mild family dysfunction. A rare opportunity for Sigourney Weaver to truly spread her wings as an actress, even taking a moment to sing, it’s made all the richer for her ability to wrestle with Hildy’s deeply human inadequacies and vulnerability.     

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