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Movie Review

Life as a House

MPAA Rating: R for language, sexuality and drug use
Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Comedy
2 hr. 25 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 26, 2001
Relevant Issues
Kristin Scott Thomas in “Life as a House.” Photo copyright New Line Cinema.
Sex, Love and Relationships
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Featuring: Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Mary Steenburgen, Jena Malone
Director: Irwin Winkler
Producer: Irwin Winkler, Rob Cowan
Distributor: New Line Cinema

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: (from the producer) George Monroe (Kevin Kline) is a middle-aged architect who is confronted with life-changing news and seizes the opportunity to begin living on his own terms. In the process of changing himself, those he was previously alienated from, including his ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) and troubled teenage son (Hayden Christensen), begin gravitating back to him, only to find their own lives affected in the most unexpected ways.

Viewer Comments
Positive—Life as a House was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. Although the language and sexuality was completely uncalled for, the storyline was so good and the message so sweet, it totally outweighed the bad in the movie. I really liked how this movie showed a complete turnaround in a troubled teen’s behavior, and relationship with his father. By the end I was laughing and crying.This movie was really one of a kind, and I recommend it to anybody over 18, who can tolerate language and sexuality.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Debbie Lenora, age 19
Positive—Yes, there are offensive topics, but this is a depiction of a world—and specifically a family—that has lost its way. They are angry about abandonment, emptiness, loneliness, Godlessness, and hopelessness. But through sheer courage of one man facing death, he draws his family back together again. Lives are turned around for the better, and values and integrity are found more valuable than possessions. It would have been nice to see Jesus as the center of this transformation, but in reality this is the point people reach before making a Christ-centered decision. There is a lot of heartache out there. This is just one family’s story, and it is uplifting, and very well acted. This is not a film for anyone under 18, but a “must see” for every parent. As Schindler’s List contained offensive scenes, but with an overall moral message, so this film also triumphs.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Leland Jeffers, age 53
Positive—This was a great film about the human spirit. Yes, there were depictions of sex, drugs, and language was sprinkled throughout. However, it was necessary to include these elements to the story to depict the situations that these characters were in. Hayden Christenson gives a wonderful performance as the rebellious son with the drug problem. Yes, it did imply that he prostituted himself with another man to pay off a drug money debt, but it was only there to show you just how far he had sunk in the world of drugs. Kevin Kline also gave a great performance as the terminally ill father trying to get his life together before he dies. It is a wonderful film with great performances. It is not for children, but adults should see this film for themselves.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—R.A., age 47
Positive—I find your review of “Life as a House” both pious and self-serving. The real world is not what the Christian Right would have us believe. People make mistakes, show emotions, make love, care, hate, and take drugs. While it is true that not all people fall into “your ‘bad’ category,” “Life as a House” paints a vivid picture of the human condition, which must include the good as well as humankind’s fallout. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and believe that it is the finest film of the year, albeit a real sleeper among the general public. It demonstrates the resilience of the human psyche, how people can change for the better, and the emotional rollercoaster that people go through all too often—I know; I’ve been there and have come back. I happen not to have a god to thank for the good times, nor to blame for the bad. That is my choice. Although I realize that I’m barking up the wrong tree, so to speak, I felt compelled to say my piece.
—Ron, non-Christian
I went to “Life As a House” knowing nothing about it, with the exception that Kevin Kline, an accomplished actor, starred in it. I left wondering how this film did not end up as a made for TV movie. The movie stars Kevin Kline as a divorced father attempting to regain a relationship with his unruly son played by Hayden Christenson, who lives with his mom and step-dad. As the story plods along, we find out why Kline has this sense of urgency to reconnect with his son as he hatches a plan to regain his son’s respect and love. Kristin Scott Thomas plays the step-mom who rediscovers feelings for Kline at the expense of her current husband. In short the story is contrived. Nothing surprising happens throughout the movie and after 15 minutes of watching, the viewer knows how the movie will end. The movie tries way too hard and force feeds the sentimentality to the audience. Although led by a strong performance by Kline, the rest of the cast wallows in the poor script. The film itself contains no Christian elements, and should not be viewed by anyone under the age 17.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 1½]
—Brian Greg, age 22
Negative—I consider this movie extremely offensive. I went to see it with a group of friends and I walked away completely appalled. The movie had a good plot but was ruined by: teenage drug use, too many f-words to count, profanity, a teenage boy prostituting himself to another man, and multiple sexual encounters between adults and teenagers. This movie has a very secular world view and I do not recommend it to anyone. I regret exposing myself to such a movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Amie Reisdorph, age 18
Positive—I went and saw Life as a House with a buddy of mine, and was very pleased. It is by far one of Kevin Kline’s best movies, and very close to “A Fish Called Wanda” and “Dangerous Creatures.” There was a wonderful display of everlasting love, that really kept you drawn in. And, the relationship between the father and son was very compelling, especially as you see the son at the beginning of the movie sniffing some substance, and then using suffocation to heighten the “stoned” experience. Some of the other reviewers wrongly mention this as a masturbatory act—that is not the case. I won’t go into the whole medical/drug philosophy behind the drug suffocation bit, since it has no relevance. There are a few scenes of teen sexuality that were unneeded, but nothing is shown, only the mental image. There is no nudity, save a rear-end at the beginning. I strongly recommend this to anyone looking for a good “date” movie, as my wife and I are about to go see it tonight!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Jeremy Meiss, age 25
Positive—This was a great movie and they really should make more movies like this. There were a few scenes of objectionable material, but it was nothing extreme. However, it is not a film for children, so keep the kids away.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 5]
—Adam, age 19
Neutral—We were attempting to see Serendipity at with another the couple but the theater had already pulled it. After some debate we decided to go see Life as a House in spite of its R rating and not having read a Christian review. The underlying theme of the redemptive power of unconditional love is excellent and will have most of the women and several of the guys leaving the theater weepy. The growing relationship between the father and the son is believable. However, as the previous reviews have mentioned, there are sexually related scenes in several places in this movie, though no explicit nudity except a couple of rear ends. Most of these scenes seemed to have no bearing on the main storyline which made for an uneven movie. I found particularly disturbing the portrayal of casual sexual activity between teenagers as being acceptable behavior. And the brief scene of a potentially life threatening masturbatory practice was also disturbing, though I guess included to show how messed up the teenage son was. This has reaffirmed my commitment to reading movie reviews beforehand.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3½]
—Hans Zaepfel, age 43
Positive—Bring your hankies. I now remember why I quit going to “R” rated movies. Although we enjoyed this movie, there were entirely too many scenes that were objectionable. Definitely not for teens, even older teens in my opinion. It could have been a great movie except for entirely too much profanity, especially the “f” word and too much unmarried sex, masturbation references etc. A middle aged women has sex with her daughter’s boyfriend (we are spared frontal nudity and graphic sex.) One of the teen boy characters supposedly has sex for pay with a man. The story itself was good, excellent even. Too bad Hollywood can’t make many great movies without them earning an “R” rating. My opinion: a very good movie, Kevin Kline will be nominated for an Oscar, but leave the kids at home.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Denise, age 46
Movie Critics
…moral worldview and redemptive, Christian allegorical elements are heavily marred by some solid romantic elements and a pagan worldview regarding sexuality…
—Lisa Rice, Movieguide
Content includes “…drug use, very strong language, sexual situations and references, including teen prostitution, nudity, masturbation involving attempted suffocation, and adult-teen sexual encounters…
—Nell Minow, The Movie Mom