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Life as a house

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Movie propaganda

Seen from a distance, it's perfect.

Architect George Monroe (Kevin Kline), who has had a lifelong ambition to achieve one of the great American dreams: to build his own home, a refuge set on a cliff at the edge of the sea. But it's a dream that George has put off again and again while he's sunk lower and lower - ending up divorced, overworked and estranged not only from friends and family, but from himself.

Now George has hit rock bottom and there's nowhere left to go... except out onto the edge. At first, his plans seem wild-eyed and crazy. His cul-de-sac neighbours despise his sagging, dilapidated shack. His teenage son, Sam (Hayden Christensen), would rather stare into space and pop pills than raise a finger to help him. His ex-wife, Robyn (Kristin Scott Thomas), who once shared his house and his dream, is now emotionally distant from him. Local city officials want to sabotage his plans. It seems there is no one left with any faith in him.

But George is determined to build this house - even if it means refurbishing his entire life. He begins the project alone, but soon attracts a disparate group of people - from the next-door neighbour's sexy young daughter Alyssa (Jena Malone) to his ex-wife's kids from a new marriage - to his scheme. What begins as a way for George to redeem his own bruised dreams turns into something much bigger than he ever imagined - and something far stronger than just a shelter.

Persons of interest

  • Kevin Kline .... George Monroe
  • Hayden Christensen .... Sam
  • Kristin Scott Thomas .... Robyn
  • Jena Malone .... Alyssa
  • Scotty Leavenworth .... Ryan
  • Mike Weinberg .... Adam
  • Mary Steenburgen .... Colleen
  • Scott Bakula .... Kurt Walker
  • Mark Andrus .... Screenwriter
  • Irwin Winkler .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Apart from everything else, Life as a house is the film that got Hayden Christensen the role of Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones, and that gets it over the line in anyone's book. Hayden plays to perfection the disaffected brat desperately seeking attention from parents who are so tied up with appearances that they can't see the simple cry for love.

Love your children. Pick them up and cuddle them and tell them you love them every day, no matter how old they or you get. Anything less is a crime against humanity.

Meanwhile, Kevin Kline gives the best performance of his life (and death), encompassing every regret that a divorced terminally ill parent can have. His need to be loved by his son is incredibly self-centred but also the greatest gift that anyone can give. It also happens to be exactly the gift that his son needs. Watching Kevin and Hayden go head to head like two rutting bulls is as rewarding as it is painful. You know you've been touched by a movie when the real world seems both impossibly ugly and overwhelmingly beautiful. I was transformed after watching this film.

You can be, too.

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Adult themes)

Surveillance time

123 minutes (2:03 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 23 May 2002
VHS rental: 8 January 2003

Cinema surveillance images

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