GUEST FILM REVIEW
by Mary Starks, MA, LPCC
Mary is a psychotherapists in Santa Monica specializing in
childhood trauma and the darkside of Hollywood
THE GOOD HOUSE
The Good House, directed by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, takes place in “Wendover” an idyllic New England seaside town brimming with charm. This story will not only stir the deepest waters of your soul but have you longing to book a vacation on the Cape.
Hildy Good is a 60-something divorced realtor and descendent of a Salem witch burned at the stake - played by Sigourney Weaver. The emotional range Weaver embodies in her performance reminds us why she is an A-list actor. Good’s character is complemented by the levity and humanity introduced into her life by Franklin, a burgeoning love interest played by Kevin Kline.
Hildy is going through the motions of life after her friends and family orchestrated an intervention. The intervention resulted in her rehab stay, however if she had the moxie of Amy Winehouse, she would not have gone away. Post rehab, Hildy lets us in on her inner commentary, riddled with Hildy’s defensive grandiosity, self-delusion, blunted affect and stilted impoverished social interactions. Hildy’s remoteness and superficiality signals the ways she pushes herself to be okay, turning away from her problems, vulnerability and preoccupations.
Come nightfall, Hildy’s well-coiffed canine companions standby as silent witnesses as she shleps to the cellar to bring out the wine that helps her get in touch with the playful more authentic parts of herself she hides during the day. This has a cringeworthy and reckless quality to it.
Soon Hildy finds herself adding a new neighbor, Rebecca, to her wine nights which give way to an illusion of more safety, power and control and emotional connection. We watch her drinking quickly accelerate and she is soon confronted with mounting tension of compensating for her lack of emotional availability to her daughters with empty promises of financial support with resources she doesn’t have.
Hildy’s long locked away “maternal ghosts in the nursery” (Fraiberg) soon emerge, putting her in touch with significant childhood trauma; reminding us (the audience) that what goes unprocessed gets enacted. Hildy can no longer run from the painful places within her that immediately terrify and overwhelm her.
After a night the cellar, tangoing with Merlot, she emerges dishelved and we see her recognize she is on a path of suicide. She wobbles outside to the dock and we see her admonish herself to stop drinking at once. This vow to change is of course short lived because she does this in isolation and robs herself of the accountability and social support she needs to be successful and make it real.
During Hildy’s period of abstinence, we see her running dialogue of deluded rationalizations disappear and she experiences a resurgence of vitality, joy and expansive love possibilities with Franklin. After an unexpected professional win, she easily succumbs to peer pressure to partake in a celebratory “sip” of champagne that turns into a hazy bourbon slide into a full-on relapse and morning after of epic nightmarish proportions, complete with a boozy fever dream and anguish that leads to the collapse of her defenses and true growth and change.
This movie contains many relatable themes of the human condition intersecting trauma, desperate enslavement to substances, false selves and shadow sides. Ultimately The Good House leaves us with messages of hope that anyone can find the courage within themselves to step back into life again, the good, bad and the ugly, and, with love and connection, our fate does not have to be sealed in the trauma of the past.
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