Life as a House (2001)

Sappy, but still works.

Faced with a sobering diagnosis of terminal cancer, George (Kevin Kline) decides to construct a beautiful new house on his land overlooking the Pacific Ocean, while at the same time trying to connect with his estranged son (Hayden Christensen).

As soon as I saw the trailer, I was expecting the conventional, predictable, Lifetime movie wanna be, tearjerker. In ways, I got that, but that’s not really a bad thing.

The screenplay is alright, however, I couldn’t help myself but to be annoyed at times. The blending of comedy, and drama, worked a little well, but there would be times when I didn’t know if the movie was trying to be funny, or just being sarcastic in a way. But this film is you obvious tearjerker. It does blatant sad things just to get a rise out of you, which I didn’t like, and thought was actually pretty cheap, considering, I think if they just stuck with their original script, and got rid of all the sappy crap, then this film probably wouldn’t have annoyed me as much.

However, some of the dramatic stuff does work, and you do get connected to the characters. But it’s not because you want to, it’s just because that’s how the film has written them out to be. There are some scenes that dramatically work, and others, that well, don’t necessarily hit the mark.

There was one thing that made me like this movie, more than I expected, and it was the great performances from the cast. Kevin Kline gives a great performance, maybe one of the best of his career, cause he handles this guy, George, with such ease and such grace, that he’s both charming, and serious, which makes him a joy to watch, and likable. Hayden Christensen may get a lot of ish, for not being a very good actor, but in this one, he hits every single note so well. Hayden plays to perfection the disaffected brat desperately seeking attention from parents who are so tied up with appearances that they can’t see the simple cry for love. The scenes between these two, where they are at each others neck’s basically work so well, and are played out in a very detailed way, and don’t seem fake at all. Kristin Scott Thomas, plays Kline’s ex-wife, and she has some very good spots as well. And then you add a horny Jena Malone to the equation, and then you get some funny things happening.

Consensus: Life as a House has some nice touches, that are highlighted by great performances, but feels too conventional, and manipulative, in showing you that you should care for these characters, and be upset by all the little bad things that happen.



  1. Hey CMrok93,

    Since you’re an old member, I wanted to let you know that the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Blog Club is now officially back! If the posts for the upcoming Voyage dans la lune Blog-A-Thon are as plentiful as the emphatic blogger response, then it is already a success. I’m writing you today to welcome you back as a returning blog club member, and with news as to how I will manage the Club.

    I will do my best to honour the old format: once a week I will write to a contributor asking for their title selection, one specific to a particular decade. Once they have chosen, I will post the assignment on the Club page. The standard deadline for a posting is one month. Every THURSDAY I will publish a post page for the film assigned one month previous, and so on on a weekly basis.

    In the past, certain bloggers were removed from the ‘members list’ for lack of assigned film posts. I will not be continuing this tradition. Every contribution is a treasure, and blogging is a hobby for most, if not all of us. Whatever you contribute is welcome, and no one will be turned away for not writing enough. Also, should you have any posts for the films listed in the archives that you would like included, then feel free to forward them to me. I’ll be more than happy to add them.

    As with all projects, this one is bound to evolve. If there is something new you want to see, or something old that should be changed, including ideas for a better look, feel or formula, then let me know. I want this Club to start off perfect!

    You can find the 1001 Club page right here: If you could reply to this email, that way i could have your email address for the future.

    Also, aside from A Trip to The moon on November 29th, we already have our first next assignment, which is going up on Thursday December 2nd: The Passion Of Joan of Arc (1928), and Pather Panchali on December 16th.

    Here’s to hitting the ground running.


  2. Another solid review with good points about the ‘lifetime’ movie of the week elements and the obviously, at times, over-sentimental handling of terminal disease but what are you going to do? It’s a tough subject and many people avoid movies like this just because it’s “too depressing” – well, there is beauty in tragedy, I think, and while the film weighs down beneath its own weight at times, it is Kevin Kline that keeps this film moving forward, always with character first and then story and finally plot. Why do so many films get this wrong? Reminds me a little of ‘My Life’ with Michael Keaton, though obviously two different films with different approaches, I really ended up liking the house metaphor even though it was always ‘in the foreground’.

    I love Kristin Scott Thomas in nearly everything she does and I agree with you about Hayden – he did a pretty good job. Did you see Jumper? He carried that film and if you don’t like him going in you’re probably not going to like him through the story but he actually does a pretty good job there too.

    You could definitely see a very young Jena Malone here, inexperienced and shy to the camera, I think she worked that out when she followed with Donnie Darko (I think the timeline is right).

    I wouldn’t argue with your rating though I might bump it a little higher just for Thomas and Kline which share some nice scenes and chemistry.

    Of course as would have it, I wrote a review of this one so please come by and give it a read and let me know what you think.


  3. This is a good review but I didn’t really like the film. Then again, I’m not into tearjerkers or anything that tries to manipulate my emotions unless its earned.

    I like most of the cast, notably Jena Malone who I have a mad crush on. Kevin Kline is what kept the film from becoming a total disaster.

    There were a few things that I didn’t like about the film. The soundtrack which is very generic and I was really annoyed at the way they used Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely” in a scene that was supposed to be emotional.

    The other problem I had is Hayden Christensen. With the exception of Shattered Glass, I always thought he was a terrible actor and this performance makes the case. A friend of my dad had a problem with that performance where he and I had the same conclusion. He’s too whiny, too angsty, and just over-doing it. It reminded me why I didn’t like his work in the Star Wars prequels. It grated me throughout. It was terrible. I always avoid any kind of film he’s in because I know he’s going to be so bad except in Shattered Glass.

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