I'll Huff and I'll Puff

Life As A House tries too hard. I knew this twenty minutes in, when, within one day, our protagonist, George Monroe, has a run-in with his ex-wife, frustration with his son, being let go from his job, and finding out he's going to die.

But what do I know? After this too strong start, the film actually settles into a more deliberate pace from there.

Kevin Kline portrays George, living alone in a shack on a piece of land that overlooks the ocean, surrounded by million dollar homes and the folk who can afford such luxury. He was once married to Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas), who now lives with her new husband in a similarly luxurious manner. Their punked-out, preference-ambiguous, son Sam lives with her, not wanting anything to do with his parents. George is unloved and alone, but wants his similarly unhappy son over the summer.

In fact, George, faced with inoperable cancer, has decided to take up building his dreamhouse where the shack stands, and further wants to bond with his son over the experience. As the too-rebelious Sam, Hayden Christensen makes this no easy task, but how many of us doubt at this stage whether George's plan will be successful?

The story takes on too many issues to tackle them all with the right degree of finesse. Certain bits with George and Sam are awkwardly askew. Why certain other characters are present is never quite explained.

The last half of the film solidifies to being mostly on target. There's a few non-sequitors in the plot that don't seem to hold up, and one of our last conflicts is resolved through a coincidence too improbably to be true - the timing is funny as hell, but that doesn't excuse it any more than flippant comment right afterwards does (you'll know what I mean if you've seen it).

I am tempted to blow off my praise of this film because of a final monologue that seems almost lifted from American Beauty. It's not quite the same thing, and certainly doesn't have the same resonance, but the influence is unmistakable. It's not wrong to imitate good art, it's just a mistake to do it poorly. Oh well.

This is one of those films that feels better than it rates. It's more of a feel good movie than it is a good movie, though not truly in the realm of the "guilty pleasure" of a decent puff piece.

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Review: A Little Too Leading star5/10 mastadonfarm

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