Imagine if you will American Beauty in the hands of Bob Villa. Divorcee George Monroe (Kevin Kline) is falling apart at the seams: he lives in a brokedown palace, gets fired from his job at an architectural firm and discovers he has a terminal illness. George decides to mend some rickety family foundations before cancer takes its toll. His ex-wife Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas) lives high and loveless with a new husband, two young brats and George’s rebel-without-a-cause son Sam (Hayden Christensen). There’s no explanation for the goth teen’s outré behavior though director Irwin Winkler’s lame-brained compositions seem to think Marilyn Manson has something to do with it. The boy huffs, puffs and swallows anything in sight, screaming “why can’t you all die and leave me alone” like a troubled youth from a Lifetime movie-of-the-week. Sam is hog-tied and forced to play “This Old House” with his dying dad. It’s not long then before the teen inexplicably loses his multiple piercings and blue hair. Everyone in town plays the construction worker including George’s lascivious next-door neighbors (a mother/daughter slut team played by Jena Malone and Mary Steenburgen). George waits eons before telling his construction family about the termites, um, cancer invading his body. Life as a House channels American Beauty to a sanctimonious fault, right down to a “gay vague” subplot reduced to a comedic punchline by film’s end. The cast is uniformly excellent and the actors have a way of transcending the material’s more ham-fisted moments. At the very least (spoiler warning!), the film avoids the obvious: George dies before ever getting to pound the nail in his home-cum-coffin.
- Irwin Winkler
- Mark Andrus
- Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Jena Malone, Mary Steenburgen, Mike Weinberg, Scotty Leavenworth, Ian Somerhalder, Jamey Sheridan, Scott Bakula, Sandra Nelson, Sam Robards
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