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Daze on the Market

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TIFF

MOVIE REVIEW
The Good House (2021)

An adaptation of the Ann Leary novel, “The Good House” centers on Hildy Good (Sigourney Weaver), an alcoholic real-estate agent with witchy powers and in a bit of a midlife crisis. Her ex-husband, Scott (David Rasche), left her for a man after 22 years; former assistant Wendy Heatherton (Kathryn Erbe) took her clients; and rent just went up in Brooklyn for her yet-dependent aspiring-artist daughter, Emily (Molly Brown). Hildy is working her deep knowledge of the fictional Wendover, Mass., (apparently stand-in for Ipswich) and personal relationships with its denizens to capacity in hopes of drumming up business. Though she has her finger on the pulse of this affluent coastal Boston suburb, she’s oblivious to the seriousness of her dipsomania to the point that an intervention needs to be staged.

It gives me absolutely no pleasure to say Ms. Weaver is badly miscast here. Her role calls for someone larger than life – a Meryl Streep perhaps; Annette Bening in “American Beauty” also comes to mind. Ms. Weaver’s performance feels too dialed down; without the charm, energy and drive her character demands. When Hildy finally cracks under pressure, Ms. Weaver also doesn’t really convey any vulnerability. As Hilda’s old flame Frank Getchell, Kevin Kline seems to have earned the role by being one of the few actors who can match Ms. Weaver’s height rather than by having great chemistry with her (see also: “Dave” and “The Ice Storm”). Residents of Wendover aren’t as colorful as they need to be to keep the proceedings interesting.

Codirectors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky (both cowrote with Thomas Bezucha) have attempted to cobble together an air of whimsy mostly by having Ms. Weaver break the fourth wall and speak directly to the camera. A scene of Hildy giving a tableside psychic reading at supper is utterly devoid of magic, as is another in which she sees an apparition – naturalistic direction makes both scenes fall flat. While it’s possible the filmmakers want us to realize only in hindsight that the latter is a manifestation of her supernatural abilities, there are nonetheless no tonal, stylistic or atmospheric clues that might stand out on repeat viewings. About the only positive thing one can say is that the film’s quality is definitely above that of the average Lifetime movie. But its appeal is strictly limited to those who view Vineyard Vines as a lifestyle.

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