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Film / Life as a House

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"I always thought of myself as a house. I was always what I lived in. It didn't need to be big; it didn't need to be beautiful; it just needed to be mine. I became what I was meant to be. I built myself a life... I built myself a house."
George Monroe

Life as a House is a 2001 American drama film produced and directed by Irwin Winkler with a screenplay by Mark Andrus.

After being fired from his job as an architectural model fabricator, George Monroe (Kevin Kline) discovers that he has advanced stage cancer and any treatment would be futile. George decides to demolish the home left to him by his father and spend his last days building a new house from the ground up, enlisting his son, Sam (Hayden Christensen) to whom he has not revealed his terminal condition, with whom he has a dysfunction relationship. In the meantime, George also reconnects with his ex-wife and Sam's mother, Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas), who decides to assist as well. Also joining in the construction are various neighbors, including Alyssa (Jena Malone), Sam's classmate who lives next door with her mother Colleen (Mary Steenburgen); and local policeman and George's childhood friend Kurt Walker (Scott Bakula).


This film features examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: George recounts that his father was abusive to him and his mother, and it's the reason for him to tear down the house he left him. He also makes a point to treat his son Sam differently, despite his unruly behavior.
    George: I put a gun to my father's head once. Ever think like that? He was passed out. Had just been yelling at my mom over nothing. Under-cooked meat. I went to my room, I held the barrel right up to his ear, and then I chickened out again. Of course it was a BB gun but still it would have hurt like hell.
  • Erotic Asphyxiation: Sam mentions having dabbled in this.
    Sam: Do you have any idea what it's like to jack off in an armoire?
  • Heroic RRoD: George has these in escalating fashion as both cancer and exertion take their toll on him as the film progresses, culminating in a Character Death.
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  • Informed Poverty: A weird example in that George is a middle-aged architect who lives in a run-down house, and the movie takes place in a supposedly middle-class neighborhood. The problem is that the "run-down house" is on the edge of a cliff with a view of the ocean; that kind of real estate anywhere in California would be obscenely valuable.note 
  • Jizzed in My Pants: Alyssa, the girl that Sam has a crush on, decides at one point to join Sam in the shower, which he is borrowing the use of since his and George's new house is still largely incomplete. Sam, rather understandably, promptly gets a Raging Stiffie as a result. Sam, obviously being controlled by a stronger force than himself at this point, asks Alyssa if he can kiss her. She agrees on the condition that they be Just Friends afterwards. All this stimulation swiftly causes him to ejaculate all over the shower. Of course, awkward as this whole scene is for everyone involved, it does result in one of the movie's best funny moments when she immediately follows up her moment of amused disgust with "You're scrubbing down the shower."
  • Shower of Love: Sam inadvertently ends up in one of these with his crush, Alyssa, but it goes no further than the two of them kissing before it abruptly ends in awkwardness. They do, however, end up with a Relationship Upgrade from there on out.
  • We All Die Someday: George muses on mortality when Sam discovers his terminal cancer.
    Sam: You knew you were dying from the start?
    George: We're all dying from the start. I just got moved to the head of the line.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: When George gets his terminal cancer diagnosis. It spurs him to put all his remaining time and effort into building a new house to replace the one his abusive father left him.
  • You're Cute When You're Angry: George finds a really sophisticated way to basically say that to his ex-wife Robin in so many words.
    George: You're the most beautiful woman I have ever known.
    Robin: [taken aback] What?!
    George: Not just physically. Even your anger's perfect.


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