The Dallas Morning News
Movies about constructing, fixing up a home, and lessons learned
Superhero movies inspire our imaginations to soar above the clouds. Science-fiction features tantalize with their futuristic prospects of technological innovation. And fantasy films bring out the hidden adventurer in us all, arousing bravery in the pursuit of an impossible quest.
But it’s flicks about fixer-uppers and homes being built in the real world that may prove to motivate us more in the long run, many believe. The reason? We can better relate to these challenging housing endeavors undertaken by serious and comedic characters alike in a variety of motion pictures. Been there, done that is the takeaway by plenty of viewers, while yet-to-be homeowners consider the cautionary tales to be learned from some of these home improvement and construction projects depicted by Hollywood.
Ask Ryan Rollins, a homeowner who runs the Teachmepersonalfinance.com website in Richmond, Virginia, and he’ll tell you that his favorite home renovation movie is, hands down, The Money Pit (1986), starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as a couple who sink countless funds into their remodeled property.
“The movie does a fantastic job capturing the naïve optimism homebuyers frequently feel when they find the ‘perfect house,’ which frequently masks serious property issues,” says Rollins.
That film was actually a remake of another beloved picture in this home improvement subgenre, Mr. Blanding’s Builds His Dream House (1948), featuring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy as a husband and wife who attempt to modernize an antique country home that proves to be structurally defective.
“This retro comedy is a great one if you want to experience a truly heartwarming old picture and have an interest in remodeling,” explains Sean Chapman, a professional carpenter and house renovator in Eugene, Oregon. “The movie shows how many unexpected things can occur to an inexperienced renovator who thinks he’s good enough to be in charge. I’ve encountered some of the situations presented in this film, which was hilarious to watch. ‘Mr. Blandings’ is also a great inspiration for those who are about to start a renovation project.”
Another vintage film that tickles the fancies of homeowners – particularly Eric Peterson of North Aurora, Illinois – is silent film comedian/director Buster Keaton’s One Week, a two-reeler (19 minutes long) from 1920 that showcases a newlywed couple who attempt to fashion a “build-it-yourself” house in seven days, with hilarious consequences.
“At over 100 years old, this brief film is still pure magic from beginning to end and provides countless laughs,” said
Peterson, who participates in a weekly film discussion group on Zoom called Cineverse. “I watched it with my sixand eight-year-old children last year, and they immediately asked to rewatch it. The movie teaches you a lasting lesson: It’s important to know what you’re getting into before building a house.”
Chapman nominates another cinematic example of this truism: The Notebook (2004) starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel Mcadams.
“This movie tells a dramatic love story full of emotional roller coasters, but it’s also focused on home remodeling, as the lead character renovates a house during the entire movie, and it takes years for him to accomplish all these jobs alone,” adds Chapman. “The depiction of the renovation process alone should have been worth an Oscar for the director’s attentiveness to detail.”
One of the most stirring Tinsel Town works in this category is Life as a House (2001), which tells the story of a man with a terminal illness (Kevin Kline) who crafts his seaside dream home and mends his relationship with his estranged child at the same time.
When screening these and other related fare, just remember that Hollywood depictions of housing projects tend to over- or underestimate the real work, money, and resources involved. In other words, take them with a grain of salt on your popcorn.
“I think filmmakers do a reasonable job showing home construction and remodeling. But due to the need for quick scenes and pacing, you often don’t get a sense of the true amount of work required. Hollywood often focuses on the before and after – not the hard work that happens in between,” noted Rollins.
If this article whets your appetite for further films focused on home building and refurbishing, check out some of these other recommended movies, listed below.
● Dear John (2010)
● He’s Just Not That Into You (2009) Heartburn (1986)
● It’s Complicated (2009) Multiplicity (1996)
● Poltergeist (1982)
● Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
● The Karate Kid (1984)
● Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
● Erik J. Martin, CTW Features