LIFE AS A HOUSE
Architect George Monroe (Kevin Kline) has always dreamed of building his dream house, but life has got in the way. His ex-wife Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas) has rebuilt a new life for herself with husband Peter (Jamey Sheridan), but struggles to cope with rebellious teenage son Sam (Hayden Christensen), who is on a downhill trip with drugs. George’s neighbour Colleen (Mary Steenburgen) dated George a while ago, and her teenage daughter Alyssa (Jena Malone) was disappointed that nothing came of it. Now that George has only months to live, he is determined to build his house. And is intent on Sam helping him.
Review by Louise Keller:
A wonderfully rich and heartwarming story, Life as a House is a melting pot of drama and comedy that just seems to find all the right emotional buttons to press. A beautifully conceived and written piece about the pursuit of happiness, the film uses the notion of building a house as an allegory. We may not always get what we wish for, but we can certainly make changes that have a rippling effect. If you like films that get you emotionally hooked, you will certainly enjoy this one. I know I did. It’s funny, it’s crazy, it’s entertaining and at times absolutely heartbreaking. I laughed a lot and I cried a lot. The characters are beautifully written, and we partake in a journey with each of them. And as we get involved in the everyday foibles of this dysfunctional family, every member changes. The observations are as compelling as the unpredictable nature of human nature. We just never know what is going to happen next. Kevin Kline, utilising his full range, is beautifully cast as George, a man on the edge. Kline is one actor who is totally credible in hilarious situations as well as high drama, and when he grabs a chainsaw and starts hacking into a wardrobe to effect a wall of privacy around the toilet, we know (like the visiting building inspector) that here is a man not to be trifled with. Kristen Scott Thomas is superb as his ex-wife and heart-throb Hayden Christensen is a knockout as Sam, the teenager with blue hair, make up and body piercing and plenty of attitude. Mary Steenburgen is quite delightful as the bored neighbour with a healthy appetite for sex. All the elements work – from Mark Isham’s fluid score to the glorious settings and beautiful cinematography. There’s something that absolutely everyone can relate to emotionally, and the characters become very real. The human condition offers many crazy contradictions and Life As A House showcases plenty of them. A memorable and satisfying film for anyone who has ever loved, lost or dreamed.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There wasn’t a dry eye in the cinema at the media preview, except mine perhaps, and even my skeptical heart enjoyed the film. But…but… Well, the problem is the usual: too much of everything. It’s a Hollywood disease which infects even the most resistant. The perfect spot for the house, perched on a little rise above the ocean in an otherwise well off middle class suburb that looks impossibly neat and tidy. A perfect guy and a perfect ex-wife…why did they ever divorce? A perfect set up with the architect smashing all the little models he had built of projects he designed as he walks out. I knew the scene was coming and it did. The perfectly responsive teenager who even manages to pluck out all the metal body piercing bits on his ears and lips without leaving a mark (and without any sense of progress, change or irony). And the perfect sunset to frame the weepy ending. Good idea, though, to have good actors.
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LIFE AS A HOUSE (M)
CAST: Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Sam Robards, Scott Bakula, Jena Malone, Mary Steenburgen
PRODUCER: Irwin Winkler, Rob Cowan
DIRECTOR: Irwin Winkler
SCRIPT: Mark Andrus
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Vilmos Zsigmond A.S.C.
EDITOR: Julie Monroe
MUSIC: Mark Isham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dennis Washington
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 23, 2002