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Life as a House (2001)

R | | Drama | 9 November 2001 (USA)
2:18 | Trailer

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When a man is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he takes custody of his misanthropic teenage son, for whom quality time means getting high, engaging in small-time prostitution, and avoiding his father.



Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Director: Michael Hoffman
Stars: Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, Joel Gretsch


Cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Kimball
Officer Kurt Walker
Nurse #1
David Dokos
Bryan Burke
Bob Larson


George Monroe is a lonely and sad man. Divorced for ten years, he lives alone on the Southern California coast with his pet dog in the same run down shack he has lived in for twenty-five years, the shack which his father passed down to him. In the intervening years, ostentatious houses have sprung up around him. He's been at the same architectural firm for twenty years in a job he hates, which primarily consists of building scale models. On the day that he is fired from his job, he is diagnosed with an advanced case of terminal cancer, which he chooses not to disclose to his family. In many ways, this day is the happiest of his recent life in that he decides to spend what little time he has left doing what he really wants to do, namely build a house he can call his own to replace the shack. He also wants his rebellious sixteen year old son, Sam Monroe, to live with him for the summer, hopefully not only to help in the house construction, but for the two to reconnect as a family. ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Seen from a distance, it's perfect.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, sexuality and drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

9 November 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das Haus am Meer  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$27,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$294,056 (USA) (26 October 2001)


$15,561,627 (USA) (21 December 2001)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The video of George and young Sam playing in the surf was shot by Kevin Kline's wife, Phoebe Cates. She videotaped Kevin and their son Owen on the beach in Bermuda. See more »


When Sam removes the stud from his chin, it leaves neither a hole nor a scar. See more »


Colleen: Does it give you some sort of perverse pleasure to expose your... penis in front of my 16-year-old daughter?
George: My... exposure does not face your windows.
Colleen: George, this is the third time.
George: The plumber's due out tomorrow.
Colleen: You will just have to explain that to the police.
George: You were the one neighbor I could tolerate.
[George goes to walk away, then turns back]
George: Colleen! Just how far out that window did you have to stick your head to be able to see my dick?
See more »


Referenced in Life & Death (2016) See more »


That's the Way
Written by Theo Goutzinakis, Tom Thacker, Gabriel Mantle and Craig Wood
Performed by Gob
Courtesy of Nettwerk Productions
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

From a Different Perspective
19 November 2001 | by (New York, N.Y.) – See all my reviews

As predictable as this film is, it moved me in many ways. I am a single father, 58 years old, whose life largely revolves around a wonderful twelve year old boy. He'd better not go down the road of Kevin Kline's teenage kid or I'll kill him! (just kidding-don't call Child Protective Services just yet).

California Cinematic Dreamin' aside, the people here are real. Their vulnerabilities are in the open and they deal with each other as best they can. Kline's son is confused about more than his sexuality, far more. His first girlfriend accepts him and, more importantly, her own sexuality, with a maturity in no way undermined by a delightfully playful demeanor.

As in similar films, the viewer has to suspend reality when the doomed character accepts his fate with no mention of palliative, much less curative, medical intervention. His condition is never fully described but a quick, distant shot of murmuring doctors examining x-rays (x-rays? No MRIs, CAT scans or PET scans in a CA hospital?) brings home that the architectural model builder has hit a brick wall.

The cast is first-rate - everyone plays his/her role convincingly.

The message of the film is, of course, the enduring need for community. And this celluloid community is moving and loving. A truly fine film. (Yep, I cried into my popcorn.)

75 of 84 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Jacking off in an armoire tiffy_lee
this sounds very jerky but is my one criticism of this great movie ms-catamaran
Emo confusion foure
The whole shower scene? brialashee
I loved the film and hated the ending! emmeliesofia
scene that moved me the most Angel_Of_My_Heart
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