A House on a Hill

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 8

Audience Score

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Movie Info

A retired architect returns to work at the behest of unlikely patrons in this low-key drama. Richard and Kate Banks (Jack Conley and Rebecca Staab) are a well-to-do couple who want to buy a home in Southern California. While house-hunting, Kate discovers the charred remains of a house that was never completed -- and she is highly intrigued by what she's found. Kate discovers the property belongs to Mercedes (Shirley Knight), who informs Kate that the unfinished house was one of the last works from Harry Mayfield (Philip Baker Hall), a once-famous architect who left his career behind when his marriage broke up years before. Kate and Richard buy the unfinished house and contact Harry, inviting him to complete his project for their new home, and Harry agrees. Sensing this could be a major event in contemporary architecture, Kate persuades her friend Gaby (Laura San Giacomo), a filmmaker, to make a documentary about Harry and his new project. As Gaby speaks at length with both Harry and his younger assistant Arthur (Henry Rollins), she and Kate discover just how strong-willed (and how difficult) Harry can be, and as Harry struggles to complete a difficult and deeply personal work, Kate finds a new personal strength through his efforts. A House on a Hill marked a return to dramatic filmmaking for director Chuck Workman after directing a pair of acclaimed documentaries about iconoclastic artists, Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol and The Source.


Critic Reviews for A House on a Hill

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (5)

  • Combines an intermittently lyrical soundtrack with a relentlessly theoretical visual style to fashion an amiable fable.

    Nov 25, 2003

    Andrew Sarris

    Top Critic
  • While it's clear that Workman is fascinated by the subject matter, that turns out to be the primary problem: He gets so wrapped up in creating the structure that he forgets to put much of anything inside.

    Nov 21, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • Ultimately has a somewhat unfinished quality that complements the movie's themes -- and Hall's haunting performance.

    Nov 13, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • The film is full of artists who seem to be straddling the line between compromise and conviction. There is much straddling in A House on a Hill, and not enough engagement.

    Nov 13, 2003 | Rating: 2/5
  • Workman's autumnal character study may be the most sagacious cinematic dancing ever done about architecture.

    Nov 11, 2003
  • It's a compelling character study with the formal invention and editing acumen that are Workman's forte.

    Aug 13, 2004 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for A House on a Hill

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