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Architect George Monroe (Kevin Kline) has always dreamed of building his dream house, but his professional 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 equally intent on Sam helping him. 

Review by Louise Keller:
An intimate film that works well on DVD, 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. 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 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. 

It is always interesting to watch deleted scenes or optional endings, but often there is no context, nor can we understand why they were not included. The way the four deleted scenes are presented here is excellent, with optional commentary. Two of these scenes – A Visit from Kurt – actually shows alternate actors playing the role of Officer Kurt Walker (William Russ broke his leg and arm in a mountain bike accident and was replaced by Scott Bakula).

If you’re interested in the myriad of details in the making of the film, you’ll be well satisfied with the audio commentary by director Irvin Winkler, producer Rob Cowan and screenwriter Mark Andrus who relive the experience. In the process, they talk about the auditioning process and finding Hayden Christensen, who was among the hundreds who auditioned for the role. 

Inside Life As A House is a well presented documentary about 25 minutes in length that features interviews with cast and crew. It gives a reasonable insight into the making of the film and director Irwin Winkler confesses that he has always wondered what he would do if he were given a limited amount of time to live. It’s all a matter of trust, say both Kevin Kline and Hayden Christensen, when it comes to scenes that are emotionally dense. The second, shorter documentary – From The Ground Up - takes a look at how the location for the house was found.

There are some text add-ons in the theatrical press kit, with production notes and cast information, and of course there’s the trailer to give you a taste of the film.

Published January 16, 2003

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CAST: Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Sam Robards, Scott Bakula, Jena Malone, Mary Steenburgen

DIRECTOR: Irwin Winkler

RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes

PRESENTATION: Audio Dolby 5.1 DTS 5.1; Widescreen 16 : 9 enhanced

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary by producer/director Irwin Winkler, producer Rob Cowan and writer Mark Andrus; Documentary – Character Building (Inside Life As A House; From the Ground Up); Deleted Scenes with optional commentary; theatrical press kit; theatrical trailer.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: January 8, 2003

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