The film “Life as a House” is one big metaphor. It works well most of the time because it has a decent story line backed by some fine actors. The setting of the movie is visually stunning as well, for most of it takes place on a cliff off the ocean. The film itself is not all that realistic (on a number of levels), but it draws you in and brings you along on its emotional roller coaster.
The story is about George (Kevin Kline), an architect, who has forgotten what it feels like to be alive, until he finds out that he is going to die in three to four months. He decides there is nothing he would rather do with his remaining days than build his dream house with Sam (Hayden Christensen), his deviant son.
George, and everyone else in his life, including his ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), have all forgotten what it feels like to care passionately about anything or anyone. They are all dead inside. George changes all of this with his sudden zest for life and his newfound interest in transforming his broken-down house into an unmistakable masterpiece.
George”s project gets not only his son involved, but also everyone else he knows and loves. The whole project is the symbolic re-growth that clearly needs to happen between these characters. As George so blatantly states to Sam before tearing down the first wall in the house, “this all has to come down until we can build again.”
If this sounds a little sappy, that would be because it is sappy. Movies having to do with death or dying usually are. If someone sat down today and really thought what it would be like to only have a few months left to live, he might get a little sentimental himself.
This film may well have been a superb movie if it had simply been toned down a few notches. There are several unnecessary plot developments that distract from the story. A significant one involves Sam”s dealing in minor prostitution. As if Sam sniffing everything he can get his hands on and listening to a lot of Marilyn Manson wasn”t enough? There is a twist at the end that tries to get the audience to laugh at his actions, but it only serves to remind them what should have been left out in the first place.
Like the major metaphor in this movie, everything else about “Life” is a little too perfect. Everything is laid out a little too neatly for the audience, which means that there is no actual need to think or connect with the movie It is too simplistic. Watching the movie, it is easy to predict that all the problems these people have will eventually be solved by the end. Some may find this a flaw while others may embrace the inevitability.
The latter are the people who will really cherish “Life as a House.”