Takin’ it to the House

Life as a House

Directed by Irwin Winkler

(Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Mary Steenburgen)



When the weight of acknowledging you have been diagnosed with terminal illness is placed upon you suddenly and unexpectedly, what do you do?

George (Kevin Kline) has spent 25 years trapped in a house he didn’t want, both literally and figuratively, when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. His response is to live out a dream and build a new house before he dies. He decides to recruit the help of his 16-year-old son Sam (Hayden Christensen), who, along with an attitude, has blue hair, countless holes in his ear, and a nasty drug habit. George’s ex-wife Robin (Kristen Scott Thomas) can’t put up with the rebellious teen any longer so she agrees to let him spend the summer with his father. The two bond while building the house and sharing the close living quarters of the garage, which is little more than one small room with “no door between where you cook and where you crap.”

Life as a House is remarkably similar to American Beauty: Both tell of a middle-aged man with family problems who loses his job, throws practicality out the window, tries to reconcile with teenage child and ends up finding the true meaning of life. However, unlike American Beauty, Life is not a dark comedy, it is more of a feel-good cherish-what-you-have movie. But it works, because the characters are very well-developed, especially those of Sam and George.

Life as a House is a little hokey at first, as other characters, unaware of George’s condition, make comments like “why can’t you all just die and leave me alone,” and “one of us will end up dead.” Okay, we know that George is going to die, you don’t have to make it that obvious.

As for the soundtrack, I’m not so sure how “Rearranged” by Limp Bizkit and “How to Disappear Completely” by Radiohead ended up in the same film (I’d be a bit offended if I were Thom Yorke).

Despite being corny at times, Life as a House plays on emotions attempting to be a tear-jerker from the get-go, and its sappy sentimentality really does work. Place a rock in the seat next to you, and I guarantee even it sheds a tear before the lights go up.

-Marina Agerter


Life as a House opens today at GC Mall of America.