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New Line Cinema
Official Site
Director: Irwin Winkler
Producers: Irwin Winkler, Rob Cowan
Written by: Mark Andrus
Cast: Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Mary Steenburgen, Jena Malone, Jamey Sheridan

Rating: out of 5

I’m very fond of Kevin Kline—though I tend to prefer his SOPHIE’S CHOICE-type performances to his A FISH CALLED WANDA-oeuvre—so I passed up the chance to view the latest Coen Brothers’ movie in order to watch LIFE AS A HOUSE. I still want to see that Coen Brothers’ film, but all in all, it was an evening well spent. For a movie I liked, though, there’s remarkably little to be said.

Kline plays George, a Luddite architect and loner whose raggedy-ass beachfront shack is a continuing affront to the rest of the residents of his affluent L.A. neighborhood. George is slipping through his life literally and figuratively untouched. Robin (Scott Thomas) divorced him 10 years ago, taking his son Sam (Christensen) and eventually marrying a really decent company man. George gets up and goes to work, comes home and sleeps, and does it all over again the next day, without variation. One day, however, differs from the relentless march of time. George’s boss, tired of his inability to join the present (i.e., use a computer), fires him. A while later, after a cathartic tantrum, George collapses on the street and winds up in the hospital, where we learn that he has terminal cancer. No spoiler: This all happens pretty early, in fact, it’s what drives the story.

So what would you do if you only had a few months of life left? George decides to tear down his shack and build the house he’s been talking about for 20 years. Nice, if unsubtle metaphor for the just-do-it theme of LIFE AS A HOUSE (which complements the get-off-your-ass moral of Richard Linklater’s WAKING LIFE, currently in theatres). George travels the path to redemption with his troubled, sexually confused son.

Naturally, George wakes up and finally lives. Unsurprisingly, Sam turns out to be an okay kid at heart. And Kristin Scott Thomas is beautifully tawny and teary-eyed in yet another fine performance. Kline’s George is as stripped-down and graceful in near-death as we all hope we would be. And there’s nothing wrong, really, with Robin’s husband, Peter (Sheridan)—he’s just not George. But then again, that’s not unreasonable. People lose at love all the time, whether they do anything wrong or not, whether they have repellent habits or not. It just happens. The point of this lovely story is to not settle for the kind of life that just happens to you.

This is the type of predictable-yet-worthwhile story that makes you think, “I’ll bet the book is a fantastic read!” (As far as I can tell, there’s no source novel to turn to. Here’s something you don’t see every day—a movie you’ll wish someone would turn into a book.) While this movie is a tad too neat, a little too pat, if you’ve been craving film fare with a believable emotional core, you’ll be glad you watched LIFE AS A HOUSE.

—Roxanne Bogucka, an ACTION GIRL!

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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