Life as a House

Directed by Irwin Winkler
Starring: Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Jamey Sheridan, Jena Malone, Mary Steenburgen, Scott Bakula.
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexuality and drug use.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
December 19, 2001

In short, Life as a House desperately wants to be the next American Beauty, and New Line wants you to believe it is. But it's not. Not even close.

Kevin Kline plays another middle-aged, laid-off man with a distant family and a death sentence. Only this time, he's been divorced for years and he knows his death is coming after being diagnosed with cancer -- on the very same day he is laid off. For his few remaining months, he wants his troubled teenage son (Hayden Christensen) to move back with him and help him build a house. His ex-wife (Kristen Scott Thomas) and her husband (Jamey Sheridan) are just glad to get him out of their house.

The film has its moments, mostly due to Kline's brilliant emotional and physical performance, but it falls flat under the weight of its sentimentality. The schmaltz is piled on good and thick, and the sad-happy ending is completely pre-packaged for popular consumption.

It's almost out of theatres now (I had seen it when it first came out, but I've been more than a bit busy with other things) after doing little in the way of business. No big loss, really, for the public.

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Life as a House (2001)

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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan