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Drama, Romance
IMDB rating:
Sam Mendes


          American Beauty IMDb    American Beauty Wikipedia    American Beauty Soundtrack

Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham
Annette Bening as Carolyn Burnham
Thora Birch as Jane Burnham
Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts
Mena Suvari as Angela Hayes
Chris Cooper as Col. Frank Fitts, USMC
Peter Gallagher as Buddy Kane
Allison Janney as Barbara Fitts
Scott Bakula as Jim Olmeyer
Sam Robards as Jim Berkley
Barry Del Sherman as Brad Dupree
Ara Celi as Sale House Woman #1
John Cho as Sale House Man #1
Fort Atkinson as Sale House Man #2
American Beauty Storyline: Lester and Carolyn Burnham are, on the outside, a perfect husband and wife in a perfect house in a perfect neighborhood. But inside, Lester is slipping deeper and deeper into a hopeless depression. He finally snaps when he becomes infatuated with one of his daughter's friends. Meanwhile, his daughter Jane is developing a happy friendship with a shy boy-next-door named Ricky, who lives with an abusive father.
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"You have suddenly become my Hero"
There is a motto which too often is over used by many which goes "It's What Every Man Dream's of." The film American beauty is one such basis for that foundation. In this story Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham who is a burned out magazine salesman and after fourteen years, suffers a a mid-life crises. With his bosses planning to down-size him, his wife and daughter abandoning him and his future becoming mundane, Lester feels he is stuck in a dead-end life with nowhere to go but down. However, into this spiraling, bleak existence enters, youthful. teenage Ricky Fits, a next door neighbor who teaches him that life does not have to be taken so seriously. To add imagination to this idea he is further captivated and sexually tempted by beautiful Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari) who encourages his admiring, lustful stares and fertile day-dreams, creating a Lolita like romance. However, situations in his life cause Lester to become unaware of the murderous dangers arising from his neighbors, adulterous wife and patristic daughter, so much so, that what he sees as freedom, others consider destructive family threats. The film, with it's rich dreamlike sequences is destined for Classic status and that which we consider dreams are the primary ingredients for this awesome movie. ****
Pretentious and senseless
***Spoilers ahead**

When I first saw this movie I enjoyed it, right up until the last 5 minutes or so. Could this be any more cliche-ish (new word)? Oh the "repressed homosexual did it" who didn't see this coming? Thank goodness they didn't use the other ending where the drug dealin' kid gets arrested, that would have been even less plausible. The wife is coming home with a gun, motive - none. What, she wants to leave her husband so she kills him? Please. The neighbor boy kills him to take his daughter to NYC, motive - none. They can just walk out the door. Oh, but the marine finally realizes he's gay so he kills Spacey. Give me a break. I can see the studio execs now, sitting around a table convincing themselves this was a good movie, then sending out the cash to the Academy members to convince them. The movie would have been much better if A) the marine killed himself instead of, or after, killing Spacey. B) the marine has a breakdown resulting in no deaths. or C) I had stayed home and rented the Usual Suspects instead. What a waste of Kevin Spacey's ability.
Best Movie of the Year
`American Beauty' is a film that comes along and says things like few films have ever done before. A film that is maddening brilliant in how it audaciously blends the absurd with the dramatic.

Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) wakes up one morning and announces in a voice-over that his life is miserable and that the highlight of his day will be his morning jerk-off session in the shower. He then proceeds to tell us about how, one year from now, a certain incident will occur. For the next two hours we are exposed to the incidents that lead to that moment.

Lester and his wife Carolyn (Annette Benning) have no marriage. They hate each other and they do not relate to their daughter in any way. Jane (Thora Birch) has little respect for them, in return.

Lester's life changes when he and his wife force themselves to go to a school basketball game, where Jane is performing on the cheerleading team. There, Lester becomes entranced by Jane's best friend Angela (Mena Suvari).

This attraction seems rather frivolous at this point in the film, because it appears that the attraction is based solely on sexual desire. Angela is a beautiful, cocky young woman who's sole philosophy is to not be ordinary. She feels that because she is a stunner--a seductress--she is beyond everyone else. The ironic thing is that towards the end of the film, she is emotionally crippled when she has to admit that she is ordinary. The sad thin, in turn, and what lies at that heart of the movie, is that one does not need to be extraordinary to be ordinary--that beauty lies in everything, as long as such beauty is appreciated.

Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) is the mysterious new next door neighbor who becomes secretly obsessed with Jane--videotaping her at every turn. At first, this activity turns Jane off, until she becomes entranced by the reasoning behind this. His father, Wes, caught him doing pot one day and sent him to military school, where Ricky almost killed a boy--in turn, he was sent to a sanitarium. The family moves in next door and you are given a dose of true dysfunction.

It is through Ricky's obsessive video collection--through which he videotapes the world--that we get to learn the theme of the movie. It is through Ricky that Jane begins to live and learns to love herself. Ricky, one of the saddest characters I have seen in film history, is a boy who learned to appreciate the beauty of life while trying to escape the horrors of his home. His father Wes is an evil man, haunted by demons that are later revealed, who is obsessed with discipline.

I can't say much more about the movie simply because there is just too much to say about it, and also because I don't want to spoil the process the characters take to change their lives and how these lives end up--especially in the very `suspenseful' final minutes.

All I can say is that there are scenes in this film that have hit me like few other scenes have hit me. Much is not seen of Barbara, Ricky's mom, in the film--but one scene, where she looks at her son's beaten faced is so shocking and tragic because of the line she tells him when she touches his face. The words are uttered by a woman who--as the audience can tell--has been emotionally paralyzed by her husband. The words are ironic in the context in which they are said--but the fear and motivation is perfectly understood.

Annette Benning has given the performance of the year. May they give her the Oscar this very woman. This woman juggles drama with comedy like only a true master can. There is one particular scene, where she fails to sell a house, and she begins to cry. Just when you think she is being melodramatic, she begins to beat herself senseless--only to then contain herself. Ditto for Spacey and the bravura turn he gives as a man who basically decides to reclaim a lost life--and focus on what is truly important in his life. From anger to smugness--every expression is as three-dimensional as the next, showing us that he is one of our greatest actors.

The film is completely adept in exploring the dysfunctional lives of characters coming to terms with the meaning of their lives. These are characters who are miserable in their present states. These are characters who decide to change. Some succeed and some fail--sometimes on their own or based on the actions of others. Others, after claiming happiness, only loose it and seek to punish the ones that took that momentary nirvana away from them. Alan Ball directed this complex gem with the finesse only a true master could posses.

The theme of the movie centers around the concept of what is ordinary and what kind of beauty lies within the ordinary and you leave the theatre, after hearing the final voice-over, looking around you and truly observing the significance of everything and how the importance that you give to objects truly reflects the way you perceive yourself and your place in the world.

The metaphors are explored beautifully (i.e. rose petals) as are characters motivations (i.e. the color of hedge clippers). A film so complex in meaning, it will take more than one viewing to fully digest. A film so important because, like few before, it truly makes a brave and relevant comment on our place in the world and how we relate to others. A film that, for me, blew away just about every other film I saw this year.
this film is total excellence. it includes all parts of a whole story you want to see, besides going to places where other directors never thought of even touching. this film touches it all and keeps going, all the characters are truly spectacular. Kevin Spacey deserves nothing less then a oscar nomination for his role.. spectacular as always.. and his best film to date. you have to see this movie.. its a must see this fall and the best of the year!@!!!!!
Exquisite movie.
This is truly a classic movie for those people who appreciate real art when watching films. The movie is basically all about the lives of American suburbanites but put in a very realistic way. This is a great psychology movie because it shows a large amount of information on developmental processes. The acting and the dialogue in the movie are of course the best part. The movie is primarily based on Kevin Spacey's role which he captures and absolutely stunned me when seeing him. Wes Bently was also very good. It's his script that really moved me and made me think hard about life after hearing some things he said. It's truly a wonderfully well made movie. A good drama and good thing to watch for those of you studying psych in school.
One of my faves of the year...simply great.
This movie was a joy to watch. I didn't know what to expect when I came into it. I had heard the buzz of the acting and the story, etc...but we've all heard that before and had been disappointed, but not so with this one.

Kevin Spacey plays this part to a "T". He is strong when it requires and meek when it is needed. His emotional rollercoaster ride is a trip to partake in. Annette Bening is marvelous as well. I think they both should be nominated.

The support cast is also spectacular. Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, and Mena Suvari all give great performances as the troubled "Teenagers" in the film. Of particular mention is Wes Bentley's performance, worthy of a supporting nomination as well.

This is a dramatic and funny tale of a man and his life in a state of turmoil and transition. When he happens to see a beautiful friend of his daughter's at a cheerleading exhibition, he is completely infatuated with her beauty. Using this as his inspiration, he attempts to change all aspects of his life. He confronts his marriage, his job, his ego, and his libido.

The music in this film is also very well chosen. There are moments when the music fits so perfectly with the scene that they meld together as one to present a perfect emotion.

The plot can get rather involved, but you will follow it endlessly to see where you go. I was simply involved, hook, line and sinker.

See this movie more than once, and skip some of the other movies out now that are dare I say, trash.

This should be on the top of many critic's lists this year and it is certainly on top of mine.

My Rating (1 - 10): 10

In Mendes' Curdled 'American' Dream, 'Beauty' Runs Deep!
An acerbic, darkly comic critique of how social conventions can lead people into false, sterile and emotionally stunted lives, American Beauty is a real American original.

Something's rotten in suburbia and it doesn't take long to get to the source of the stink – the Burnhams. Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is a middle-aged burnout who is a marginalized husband to efficient, well-scrubbed Carolyn (Annette Benning) and a disregarded father to sullen teenager Jane (Thora Birch) and whose everyday life has degenerated into tedium. Browbeaten Lester is rejuvenated by the vision of a blonde Lolita. That the object of his obsession happens to be his daughter's best friend, a calculating sylph named Angela (Mena Suvari), matters not at all; he leaps into his fantasy like an enflamed teenager. Unhappy Carolyn undertakes an affair of her own while Jane, repulsed by her dad's hormonal attraction, secretly welcomes the attention of Ricky Fits (Wes Bentley), the strange, self-possessed boy next door. And just when things seem to be falling in place for the Burnhams, it all comes crashing down. If this sounds too depressing, guess again!

Although it's difficult to believe that humor can be found in this toxic portrait of superficial suburban values, predatory sexuality and domestic violence, rest assured it earns its laughs at every turn. Screenwriter Alan Ball gives the viewer a brief, horrific tour of crossed wires, inchoate longing, dashed illusions and resentment that wells from poisoned hearts with staggering self-assuredness. Sam Mendes (in one of the most promising debuts in cinematic history) whips the audience around from humor to horror to something poetic and humane. He suffuses the proceedings with a palpable sense of danger, keeping film-goers unsettled until the very end as to what exactly motivates these complicated characters. But he never loses sight of the humanity behind even the most reprehensible acts, a balancing act pulled off with unusual acumen.

American Beauty turns out to be emotionally satisfying, thanks in large part to a remarkably nuanced performance by Kevin Spacey. He commands the screen with a performance of subtlety, vulnerability and supreme confidence, in which he expresses mordant self-mockery and poignancy in a single gesture. He brings flawless comic timing to Lester's self-absorbed, infantile and rapacious behavior while holding on to the pathos of Lester's rage. Benning turns in her finest performance to date and all three teen players give sturdy and courageous portrayals in roles that would daunt actors twice their ages.

Visually daring, dramatically astute, and beautifully acted, American Beauty is a tart, funny and tremendously sobering movie about the deepest recesses of personal unhappiness. There's a sense of poignancy at the end, but also the feeling that we have been on an incredible trip through the lives and souls of three perfectly- realized characters. The result is the kind of artful defiance that Hollywood is usually too timid to deliver: a jolting comedy that makes you laugh till it hurts!
A comedy/drama/suspense film that is definitely going to make the viewer reflect in some way
American Beauty is a film that exposes the secrets and unruly predicaments of a suburban American family.

My reaction to American Beauty can be summarized into one word-- spectacular, as what Kevin Spacey said in the movie. The movie combines different genres to form a very interesting mix-- drama, suspense and comedy.

American Beauty is definitely praise-worthy, especially with the way the story went. The characters' lives get messed up in very unpredictable ways that will make the viewer stick till the end. The alternating mix of comedy, drama and suspense work under the spell of the beautiful score.

The characters are also a secret to the film's beauty. The not-so-usual-but-really-interesting characters are well-complemented with outstanding acting, especially Kevin Spacey, who I think did a good job in portraying a fed-up father who loses it.

Final say? American Beauty is definitely Best Picture quality. It is able to capture the dark side of suburban America while providing viewers with witty laughs.
The greatest trick Kevin Spacey ever pulled...
Kevin Spacey is a genius, or at least a veritable magician. A couple of the folks with whom I saw "American Beauty" said afterwards: "It was great - Spacey was incredible." His performance, it seems, is enough to have convinced people that they had just watched a decent movie, even though there is little else to recommend the film. The other significant plus is the advertising campaign - marketing it as "a funny drama" and "a moving comedy" is an ingenious way of disguising the fact that it is neither. Since there are only two or three really good laughs in the piece it isn't really funny enough to be a comedy (but since it's written by someone who used to work on "Cybill", that's hardly a surprise) and since it only gets vaguely dramatic towards the end, it doesn't maintain the atmosphere of a "drama". But the audience happily accepts this schizophrenic mess because the adverts told them to. The adverts also told them to "Look closer". Again, this is a tip-top marketing ploy, since it implies hidden depth, significance and meaning, without the content actually being there. The average audience member is going to think "Wow, that plastic bag blowing around must be really poignant, because this is a DEEP movie." Heaven forbid that they should actually think for themselves. Look closer, indeed.

What then, of the characters? Well, what characters? Every one on display here is little more than a stereotype, from fortysomething midlife crisis guy, to the uptight career-driven wife, to their moody teenage daughter to the moody teenage boy, to the homophobic soldier who - gasp - turns out to be gay, etc etc etc. Take the gay couple across the street, for example. They are only around for two or three scenes, and only then to provoke some more bigotry from Lieutenant Colonel Asskicker. They might as well have been two cardboard cut outs labelled "Gay" for all that they were able to develop. I know they are only supporting characters, but if you're going to do a movie which tackles the issue of homosexuality, you could at least have some believable homosexual characters in it, rather than 2-D cliches.

This is indicative of the whole, ghastly, contrived nature of this film. Characters don't feel like characters because they don't behave in an even remotely plausible manner, they don't behave consistently, and they seem to stumble through from one set-piece to the next. For example, Spacey getting a job at Happy Burgers; sure, that's amusing, but the whole thing is engineered just so he can catch his wife out, and then it's dropped. It doesn't fit in with any discernible character arc, but is simply contrived to get a cheap laugh. What about Ricky Fitts at the beginning? You've just moved into a new neighbourhood, you sell drugs but you have an incredibly strict father, and you notice your new next door neighbour at a party. Do you A) introduce yourself, chat to the guy, find out if he's the sort who will report you to the police etc. before making your move or B) march right up and offer the dope to him there and then because it expedites the action? Or how about the daughter's friend towards the end of the movie. You're 16 years old, you've just had a blazing row with your best friend, and your car is parked outside. Do you A) run off, leave the house asap, and drive straight home, or B) slink off downstairs and hang around interminably just in case Kevin Spacey shows up to carry out his perverted, sub-Lolita fantasy? I could go on all day...

The direction is, dare I say it, directionless. Sam Mendes should stick to his so-called risque theatre productions at the Donmar Warehouse. His debut film, as I have intimated, reeks of incoherence. In addition to the tonal uncertainty, there is no clear directorial vision. The only memorable images are borrowed from "Blue Velvet" and "Lolita", the rest of the time it seems to be left to the cast to try to carry the picture, whether through Bening's OTT hyperactivity or Wes Bentley understatement. When you look at "The Straight Story", or "The Insider", or even "The Sixth Sense", it galls me to think that this has been nominated for Best Direction...

That this movie is so highly rated by critics, IMDb users, and Oscar personnel, is a great shame, because ultimately its success is a testament to people's stupidity. A (substantial) crowd of non-thinking buffoons, easily satisfied by the occasional cheap laugh and a couple of relatively strong performances have been sold a complete lemon. This film is not deep. There is no coherent philosophical notion of either truth or beauty evident. A few shots of Ricky Fitts looking sullen and waving his camcorder around do not, I'm afraid, amount to a radical thesis on the nature of the world. And nothing can get over the contrived, episodic nature of this D-grade screenplay.

Someone earlier on this comments page claimed that they could not like anyone who didn't love "American Beauty", for it would mean that they have no soul. Well babe, by the same token, I will proudly say that anyone who does like this movie can't be my friend, because they clearly have no brain. Look closer everyone, I implore you. Frankly, "American Pie" is a more profound movie. Dump this rubbish and go and see "The Insider". Think for yourself, if you're able...

My rating: 3 (/10)

Far and away the best film of the year
What can I say, except that this film really knocked me on my keaster. I went in to the theater not knowing what to expect, but was pretty sure it would be worth the ticket price. Boy was I happy when I left. Not only was it worth the ticket, I paid to see this film two more times. This film is virtually perfect. The acting is superb, the story is magnificent, the narrative is brilliant, and the structure of the film is truly groundbreaking (absolutely loved the last 20 minutes). What really surprised me about this film was how well the cinematography was done. In a small, character driven film such as this, it is very unusual to have such great cinematography. With this film, there is something interesting going on in every scene, not many films you can say that about. In a year where first time directors have made some of the best films, Three Kings, Being John Malkovich, etc... Sam Mendes seems to have out-done them all. Though I have yet to see The Green Mile or Magnolia, I find it hard to believe that either film will out-shine American Beauty. This film should easily win a substantial amount of the Oscars this year. What's up with all the cirtics awards snubbing it so far?
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