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Life As A House Review
Directed By: Irwin Winkler
Starring: Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Jena Malone, Mary Steenburgen, Scott Bakula.
There are four seasons to film and they essentially follow the ones set by the weather. We have our Spring where the films are all over the place with hits and misses and no one really seems to know what the audiences will like. There are the Summer Blockbusters and in Winter we have the Christmas blowouts along with some possible Oscar contenders. But if you were to ask me, I would say the Fall Season is the time I like best. For some reason some great films rear their head here and after an empty summer allow one to believe in the possibility of great cinema again.
Life As A House is one such film that is slotted perfectly into the fall schedule.
Here's a quick overview without giving away anything. George Monroe (Kevin Kline) is not only fired from his job after 20 years but he finds out he is dying, thus giving him a whole new look on his life. He realizes the mistakes he has made and what steps might be done to set them right, or at least atone for them.
Of course it won't be easy, he has alienated his ex-wife (Kristen Scott Thomas), his son Sam (Hayden Christensen) and all his neighbors. His goal, to have one achievement in life he can be proud of, to build the house he had always talked of.
This sounds like American Beauty light, I know it does, and that's how I felt going in. But it's not. This is the kind of film people say they wish Hollywood would make more of. Something of substance without yanking on the heart strings. It isn't melodramatic or simple minded and it still finds the humour in even the most dire of circumstances. This is the kind of film that everybody praises and usually few people flock to. American Beauty was able to find an audience and I hope Life As A House also proves to be an exception to the rule.
The star of the film may be the script but few will argue that after seeing Kevin Kline's performance that this may be the first Oscar worthy performance we have seen all year. The ensemble cast from Mary Steenburgen, to the soon to be Darth Vader Hayden Christensen and the tie-in to American Beauty Scott Bakula are all first rate and never set off false notes.
Unsure of what to expect from Hayden Christensen now that he is set to be the mythical dark overlord of the Star Wars set he gives a great performance that shows he will not be some flash in the pan. The other one to watch is Jena Malone (Contact, Step Mom) who plays a Lolita-esque character who seems so sure of herself most of the time really shines when she lets her guard down. Definitely two young talents to watch.
Perhaps the one great difference between this and American Beauty, though both about dysfunctional lives, death and suburbia is that this one is more hopeful more idealic and though that may not always be the way the world faces forward it is a great story to be told at this, and any time. Some may find it schmaltzy and I would normally as well, and maybe I was suckered this time, but I sure don't feel that way.
Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul
Two Original Documentaries
Commentary with Director Irwin Winkler
Video: Widescreen 2.00:1 (Anamorphic)
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1
ENGLISH: DTS 5.0
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