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.