Hollywood icons Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline are back together for The Good House, the film adaption of Ann Leary’s novel of the same name, with iconic writing-directing couple Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear, The Polka King) and Wallace Wolodarsky (The Simpson) at the helm, part of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
"As writers ourselves, we're always in a conversation about point of view, the book had a very strong point of view," Wolodarsky told Yahoo Canada. "We were excited by the challenge of kind of translating that to the screen, especially when Sigourney got involved because she adds her own very strong voice."
"The character, along with Sigourney, made it a very enticing project."
The Good House follows Hildy Good, a realtor in an affluent New England town, who isn't necessarily at the "top of her game" anymore. Hildy has a personality that you instantly connect to, she’s endearing, witty, sarcastic and happy to quip about her clients and neighbours. But throughout the story Hildy’s alcoholism is connected to her life starting to unravel, all while she begins to rekindle a romance with Frank Getchell (Kline), seemingly "the one who got away."
"As many times [as] I've seen Kevin...I really feel Frank the garbage man is one of his most delicious creations and the relationship we get to have in this, it seemed very real and something that I think a lot of people can identify with," Weaver said at a TIFF Q&A. "I just felt it was just so much fun this time."
Forbes echoed Wolodarsky's comments that the characters, Hildy and Frank, and the town, compelled them to tackle this story.
"[Hildy] was such a sort of tough, sort of flinty, but then funny and vulnerable, interesting, complex character," Forbes said.
"I'm also from New England, I grew up in Massachusetts. We really know those towns, those small towns, and what's so amazing and idyllic about them, and then what's really hard about them, because everyone knows everybody, and everyone knows what's going on with everybody, and that can be a challenge."
Forbes added that the character of Frank is a really "familiar" person in her personal life, someone who thinks, "who am I to get into your life and start telling you what to do?"
Wolodarsky identified that one of the lessons learned from the couple working on Infinitely Polar Bear together, a largely autobiographical story for Forbes about her childhood, was that "intimate is universal," something that still rings true in The Good House.
"I think one of the problems that as writers, and maybe even in Hollywood in general, is that people don't want to be specific, you think by making it the most recognizable, it's the most universal and in many ways, I think more idiosyncratic expression turns out to be the more universal expression," he explained.
'Feeling that the world was moving on without them'
With Forbes and Wolodarsky together, it’s not surprising that the balance of Hildy’s more emotional moments are expertly weaved with smart, comedic moments, making this whole world, and how our feelings about Hildy develop as an audience member, so connected to reality.
"I think the humour is important in all that,...it's not dreary because [it’s] a person who's alive, who's trying to have a life that they enjoy," Forbes said.
"We wanted it to be real and entertaining and romantic. We saw in this movie an opportunity to kind of do everything, because that's her life."
While much of that comes from the writer-directors, another aspect of this great storytelling comes from Weaver’s captivating performance that truly draws you into Hildy’s mind.
"Like, I think most people in the film industry, and in the greater world, we were in total awe of [Sigourney]," Wolodarsky said.
"She was an incredible collaborator, she comes so prepared, she's so thoughtful, we [had] really interesting and engaging conversations about the character with her… We learned a lot from her."
Forbes added that they shot a scene (with the movie largely filmed in Chester, Nova Scotia), where Weaver had to go into the water at a chilly 4:00 a.m. and while the crew were all in parkas, the now 71-year-old actor wouldn’t come out of the water until everyone was certain they had what they needed from her scene.
"[Hildy] reminds me of so many people today, sort of fighting to keep their position as they get older and to not lose all they've accomplished to newer rivals," Weaver explained at the TIFF Q&A. "I just felt that what she was after was something that a lot of people were kind of dealing with now, feeling that the world was moving on without them and feeling that rage and frustration."
In Nova Scotia, they found a town that was regularly used as a retreat for people from New England, which allowed this international location to have that accurate "flavour" for the setting of the story.
"It was very much like the town in the movie," Forbes said. "Everyone knew everything."
In fact, we were driving to one location and on some storefront there was a sign that said ‘Happy Birthday Sigourney,’ they knew it was her birthday. It was sweet.Wallace Wolodarksy
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) runs until Sept. 18 with both in-person and digital screenings of films.