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American Beauty (1999)

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, more...
Director: Sam Mendes, Sam Mendes
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Studio: DreamWorks
Genre: Drama, Coming of Age
Running Time: 122 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
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Noted theater director Sam Mendes, who was responsible for the acclaimed 1998 revival of Cabaret and Nicole Kidman's turn in The Blue Room, made his motion picture debut with this film about the dark side of an American family, and about the nature and price of beauty in a culture obsessed with outward appearances. Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man in his mid-40s going through an intense midlife crisis; he's grown cynical and is convinced that he has no reason to go on. Lester's relationship with his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) is not a warm one; while on the surface Carolyn strives to present the image that she's in full control of her life, inside she feels empty and desperate. Their teenage daughter Jane (Thora Birch) is constantly depressed, lacking in self-esteem, and convinced that she's unattractive. Her problems aren't helped by her best friend Angela (Mena Suvari), an aspiring model who is quite beautiful and believes that that alone makes her a worthwhile person. Jane isn't the only one who has noticed that Angela is attractive: Lester has fallen into uncontrollable lust for her, and she becomes part of his drastic plan to change his body and change his life. Meanwhile, next door, Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper) has spent a lifetime in the Marine Corps and can understand and tolerate no other way of life, which makes life difficult for his son Ricky (Wes Bentley), an aspiring filmmaker and part-time drug dealer who is obsessed with beauty, wherever and whatever it may be. American Beauty was also the screen debut for screenwriter Alan Ball. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A look at raw humanity by aBonnett July 4, 2006 - 6:07 AM PDT
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful

It's a story about what happens when life doesn't quite work out as you had expected, how people react to loss , interpersonal conflict, and how the most misunderstood can be the most beautiful and how something that looks perfect on the outside can be so desheveled on the inside.
The actors are superb.
The white picket fence is broken down and misunderstanding of others and the failure to be true to the self create devastating results.
It's a beautiful movie that captures the retreat of conventional thinking in the characters.

memorable; not re-watchable by alexjb May 3, 2005 - 11:31 PM PDT
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful
i stil remember being really wowed by this film when i first saw it. i even bought the DVD. but i don't think i've yet watched it a second time (ok, maybe a second but not a third).

spacey's great, of course, and has some really terrific and memorable lines. his character embodies the (stereo)typical american male mid-life crisis really well. his wife (annet benning) captures the 'typical' american female correlary. his daughter is a relatively quiet (read not-overplayed) version of Daria/misfit teen angst.

i could go on, but you get the idea- this is a film about the intersections of a variety of american archetypes, including Chris Cooper's well-played angry right-wing war vet and his abused wife. it could be boring as hell and feel overdone. it really doesn't. it feels genuine and touching and funny.

so why haven't i watched it again and again? i'm not sure. some of the engagement is lost when you know how it all plays out, i think. or maybe it's the kind of story that you only need to be reminded of once in a long while...

real suburban mid life crisis..brilliant movie by psychodrama311 May 15, 2003 - 12:22 PM PDT
5 out of 7 members found this review helpful
first off.. the color of this movie.. deep.. reds.. was awe inspiring..mixed in with the fall weather.. just beautiful. as we all pretty much know.. kevin spacey is masterful. as usual of course..but his interaction with annette bening and mena see both sides of his neurosis. thora birch and wes bentley come together for a brilliant couple and chris cooper as a hard as nails yet confused ex-army father.. well he is great. everything about this movie is.. roses..

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.48)
860 Votes
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