Life as a House
The family that builds together.... Kline, Christensen and Thomas
dir Irwin Winkler
scr Mark Andrus
with Kevin Kline, Hayden Christensen, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jena Malone, Mary Steenburgen, Jamey Sheridan, Ian Somerhalder, Scott Bakula, Sam Robards, John Pankow, Kim Delgado, Mike O'Gwinne
release US 26.Oct.01; UK 15.Mar.02
01/US 2h04

3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
seen from a distance it's perfect Far above average writing and acting makes this a film worth seeing, even if it's dumbed down by mediocre direction and an over-glossy production design. George (Kline) has been miserable for the past 10 years since his marriage to Robin (Scott Thomas) dissolved. He hates his job, misses his 16-year-old son Sam (Christensen) and is still hoping to replace the shack he lives in with his dream house. Oh and he's dying. When he loses his job he proposes that the very rebellious Sam moves in and they spend the summer building the house.

Just enough of the script's edginess and seediness survives for us to realise what a stunning film this could have been if the same cast had made the film with a better director. Winkler just does nothing with the material, softening it everywhere with a warm glow, cranking up Mark Isham's sickly score, milking the house metaphor for all its worth, and just generally making everything as sentimental and maudlin as possible. There are some story problems as well, to be fair--mostly in the fact that the plot would have worked just as well without the terminal illness or the villainous neighbour (Robards). Yet even with all that working against them, the cast deliver powerfully moving performances. Kline is as good as ever, but it's Christensen and Scott Thomas who stand out, tackling their tricky roles with subtlety and honesty. In their hands the film is strong and meaningful, with unexpected moments of anger, pain, humour and joy. Now if we could just shut up those annoying violins for a second!
themes, language cert 15 12.Mar.02

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
seen from a distance it's perfect send your review to Shadows... "This was the perfect Thanksgiving movie: a real sentimental tear-jerker. What separates this from all the other sentimental tear-jerkers is Kevin Kline's portrayal of the grouchy middle-aged architect who, after receiving some life-changing news, finally tears down his old shack, and builds his dream house; in the same manner he begins rebuilding his relationships with his ex-wife and son. Kevin makes what should be an unlikeable character likeable, interesting and then most definitely appealing, as the layers peel away in the course of the story. While the plot was mostly predictible, there were a few interesting surprises. Life is sort of a small film, but in a big way. I recommend it." --IndigoJen, Los Angeles 25.Nov.01
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall