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Dan Heller's Movie Review of "Life As A House"

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Kevin Kline Stars as George Monroe
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Life as a House, Starring Kevin Kline, is a fine platform for the star to show the potential for his true dramatic range. With a rather straightforward plot with no twists or unexpected turns, the movie sets up and spoon feeds you all the necessary elements for a well-intended drama that pulls at the heart-strings. This is fine for Kline, and while I found the movie somewhat enjoyable, it's certainly not deep.

Kevin Kline
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The movie starts with Kline's character, George Monroe, being fired after 20 years of having been one of the top architects at his firm. He collapses as he exits the building, and wakes up in the hospital to learn that he's dying. This prompts him to reassess his life, and so doing, he decides to tear down the shack of a house he's been living in, which was he inherited from his abusive father. In its place, he intends on building a new house, and with it, his relationship with his 16-year-old son, Sam (Hayden Christensen). He does this by forcing the blue-haired and facially-pierced teenager to spend the summer helping him.

Kristen Scott-Thomas
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After some predictable resistance, he ends up helping, and the next thing you know, people all around start joining in. George's former wife, Robin, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, realizes she's not happy in her new marriage and starts coming by to help as well, regaining her affection for him in the process. It seems that everyone's magically entranced with George, which is all well and good, but there's no real reason for it. We never saw why any relationships fell apart in the first place, so there's no feeling of accomplishment when they re-unite. Life isn't that simple. Whatever conflicts the characters faced—past or present—they are easily overcome without too much effort.

Kritin Scott-Thomas
Kevin Kline
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While the movie does a good job at character portrayals, they are not endowed with reasons for their actions. Subplots are extremely superficial, many drop completely without follow-through, conclusion or even consequences. In one case, the 16-year-old girl next door, Alyssa (played by Jena Malone), decides to get into bed with George and French-kiss him because she was curious about the fact that he used to date her mother, played by Mary Steenburgen. And that's it for that plotline. Even the relationship with Steenburgen is only referenced in passing. There are a host of relationships that start and stop quickly in this light drama/comedy, but none of them amount to anything, nor do they have anything to do with the plot

Jena Malone
Hayden Christensen
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Despite my disappointment in Life as a House, this is possibly an excellent movie for teenagers. Despite the focus on Kline's character and his performance overshadowing everyone else's, the roles of the teenagers are noteworthy; the issues they face, the emotions they feel, and the simplified way their stories are told all work well for an audience that may not be as demanding of depth. One can enjoy the movie at its most basic face value, which is probably much the way it was intended. Still, I felt the movie copped out—with a little more work, it could have been all that, plus a movie with depth and meaning.

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