George and Sam go head to head
Bring a box of tissues if you are the tear-jerker type – you’ll need them
By Emma Kae - 18th June 2002 - Back to News
The protagonist of Irwin Winkler's Life as a House is quiet loner architect George. Estranged from his rebellious son, Sam (Hayden Christensen, aka Anakin Skywalker), and remarried ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), George resides alone in a dilapidated shack overlooking the ocean.
As if his life was not unfortunate enough, George loses his life-long job, falls to the floor and wakes up to discover that he has terminal cancer. Following the discovery that he only four months to live, George quickly undergoes one of those complete personality transplants typical of Hollywood's discomfort with hard-to-like characters.
In an effort to win the audience over, George decides to reconnect with his substance abusing Marilyn Manson poster boy son, tearing down the shack and building his dream home. 16-year old Sam, for some reason, is unhappy about exchanging a wild summer of drinking and drugs for several months of working with the father he hardly knows, and doesn't really like.
The film tries to win its audience over with American Beauty’s blunt, confronting, dysfunctional style, but instead the major issues of the film seem somewhat contrived. Tapping into most of today’s major film themes: relationships, redemption, cancer, drug abuse, prostitution and sexual preference; the film is a confusing mix that travels down many paths but does not seem to reach its final destination. While one issue alone could have forged the way for a compelling film, no single movie could successfully juggle so many genres.
Still, Life As A House is not a complete failure as a film. Though not perfect, Life As A House is a pleasant place to visit, if only once, and for just a few hours. Kevin Kline puts on a memorable performance as George, while Kristin Scott Thomas fits perfectly into the role of the ex-wife. Hayden Christensen’s character is interestingly involving, also.
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