ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  irwin winkler

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  145 minutes

RELEASED  -  26 october 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  new line cinema

OFFICIAL SITE  -  life as a house

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $18,000,000
life as a house - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from life as a house at

buy the dvd from life as a house at

about a middle-aged architect who is confronted with life-changing news and seizes the opportunity to begin living on his own terms.

the writer is a fan of the band guster, and named the dog and two of the characters after the band.


picture from life as a house

picture from life as a house

picture from life as a house


two out of four possible stars

Expect all the drama of The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, yet some performances worthy of a few awards. And I'm not talking Cable Ace awards. What stars Kevin Kline and Kriston Scott Thomas must overcome in this film is not kevin's declining health, it's a story that isn't worthy of these great actors. When I first saw the trailer for this film, a few words flew through my head. One of the first was Oprah. Emotionally, this film bears a striking resemblance to the main course for oprah's book club.

Now, I'm not trying to demean her choices, but the do tend to bring out the sappy in literature. Like The Deep End of the Ocean. Obviously not a film for everyone, Ocean had a habit of making every scene so gooey. As somebody posted on the IMDB, that film should have been called "Mommy Tearest." Well, the same terminology can be applied to Life as a House. Everybody has problems and those problems just get worse and by the end of the film, there's no resolution and everybody's still depressed.

One of those "we're all living in some existential version of the world." Because everybody has problems and they're not going to go away. I can't say that I was expecting the film to end with a happy-happy-joy-joy ending, but I would have appreciated something that either brought the film to a sense of finality or would have been a little more light hearted. I'm not asking for Kevin Kline's character to actually live through terminal cancer ... but it would be nice for there to be some hope in this film. Something that this film benefited from was the small amount of humor injected to some tense scenes during the film.

Everything in this film was not strictly depressing and through some comments, much of the time from Kevin Kline's character, the mood was lightened at times. In fact, there was more comedy that I would have thought in this film, given that it's about broken families, death, and mean spirited people. Every once in a while, a character would say something offbeat and that would prepare the audience somewhat for the heavy stuff that always followed. And boy was the drama heavy in this film. The people just had so many problems and, by the film's conclusion, there wasn't a vast amount of improvement attitude and situation wise for any of the characters.

Sure, Hayden Christensen didn't have fourteen piercing in his face after the film ended, but he was still depressed. But I have to give it to hayden, he gave a terrific performance. Very "deep" for such a young actor. And so did Jena Malone and Mary Steenburgen. This film brought together a lot of talented people who gave good performances, but the story was too weepy. It was like a melodrama where everybody suffered, not just the women. Everybody had problems and needed to be on prozac.

Even Kristin Scott Thomas's children, who were only around seven years old, were depressed. And by the end, the state of these people's lives was still in disarray. The ending really didn't make that much sense either. During the movie, Kevin's entire motivation is to rebuild a house with his son so that he can reclaim some of the love lost between them after the divorce from Kristin's character. There's a scene where Kevin makes a short speech about something, which affects the entire ending of the film, and there's not enough emphasis put on this speech for the ending to really make sense.

When you see the ending, it's very clear that what kevin does with the house makes all the effort he put into cultivating a healthy relationship with his son seem less important. There is not a lot of time spent on the resolution of some conflicts between the characters. At the end, the audience has no idea what happens to the neighbors (Mary Steenburgen and Jena Malone), Kristin's family (her sons and her husband), or the relationship between Jena Malone and Hayden Christensen. Everything just kind of stops and the credits role. This film might resemble more a short story that a novel or film in that it starts in the middle of a story and ends before the end of that story.

But since the audience here has spent two hours (well, more than that) getting to know these people, letting the story drop off like a cliff at the end, just doesn't seem fair. It doesn't need to be buttoned up perfectly, but some resolution between the characters would have been sufficient. Even if the characters had gotten into even more trouble, or separated from the other people, there would have been more closure. As it was, this film was filled with far too many tears. There were legions of elderly women bawling in the back rows after this film. They're probably still crying now.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs new line cinema 2001
home | archive | ratings | links | photographs | about | contact