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Drama, Romance
IMDB rating:
Sam Mendes


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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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Best Movie of the Year?
I saw American Beauty last night and I can't stop thinking about it. It was one of the best movies I have seen in quite awhile. I don't want to give anything away so I'm just going to give some tidbits. The acting was brilliant. Kevin Spacey was in his best form, I really think this is the perfect role for him. Annette Bening was great, and her hair was even better. I'm not real familiar with Wes Bentley, but his portrayal of Ricky Fitts was spectacular. The direction by Sam Mendes was beautiful. He created such a great feel and vision it's hard to not want to see it again just for the images. I think schools should consider showing this movie to film students to show them how to completely create a mood with such few gimmicks. The mood Mendes created made me laugh and feel uncomfortable at the same time. I guess it was a little bit like the way we all feel about life itself, which is what the movie is about anyway. You must see this movie if you are serious about film, and you should see this movie if you still like to be moved by a brilliant story.
A little masterpiece...
"American Beauty" is tour de force cinema. Sam Mendes' brilliant debut feature depicts a web of characters who yearn for their own 'American Dream' - yet, in the end, only one character truly attains it.

Having seen "Happiness" only recently, I could not help but draw comparisons: both films centre around a microcosm of society in which the people, in their own unique way, all strive to be successful or simply 'happy'. But here the similarities end: the characters in "Happiness" undergo a self-realisation process through which they become increasingly aware of their meaningless existence, and go on to wallow in their own depravity. "Happiness" shows no signs of redemption; whereas in "American Beauty" the audience is offered a sense of hope, of salvation, though the characters must endure a similar fate, or more accurately, they must endure the way of life in which they are trapped.

The pivotal character upon which this theme centres, is the father Lester, played impeccably by Kevin Spacey. He is presented to us as a bit of a loser who plays the subjugated figure in the home and at work. He appears resigned to an unhappy life in which he is treated badly by his wife and daughter and his boss at work. Seemingly beyond redemption, Lester transforms from being a loser.

Mendes portrays this transformation admirably well: he shows Lester on his 'path to enlightenment' pushed up against a grim background of suburbanite existence. These early scenes are well balanced, forming a steady rhythm of TV commercial-like vignettes which prove very comical, if at times unsettling. As Lester reflects in the film: "My life is like a commercial". And how this rings true: like in "Happiness", all the characters hide underneath this veneer of normality and respectability, yet they are all revealed to be nothing but the opposite: depressed, depraved and desperate.

Lester's wife, played by Annette Benning, is the most success-driven character in the story which renders her the most hopeless in the film's tone of moral conviction. "In order to be successful in life one must project the appearance of success" is the maxim she adopts from the 'king' of real estate, Buddy King. It is a phrase which resonates throughout the film: for Benning's pawn, life is all about keeping-up appearances. This is where Lester differs from her: his emancipation is enabled by him discarding the constraints of 'normal life' and following what his heart desires.

Lester is the catalyst in this narrative in which the ancillary characters either follow suit (as does his daughter and Ricky) or pay the price (as does his wife and the Colonel). The irony inherent in this film, and it grows with resonance as the film draws to a conclusion, is that the only character who truly becomes free must sacrifice everything in order to achieve it. Yet it is through his sacrifice that he is able to afford the surviving characters a glimpse of hope in life.

This film left me gasping for air: its hyper-realism conveys, at the same time, a portrait of the suburban comedy, a jolting-shock of realisation, and a cathartic sense of hope. Mendes depicts a certain people who, to varying degrees, all strive for a certain 'American Dream', yet so few actually attain it. Though whilst one may have difficulty with tagging this film with the 'feel good' label, the beauty of "American Beauty" is that it sits half-way between a desperate cry for help and a reassuring sense of happiness and fulfilment and that is cinema at its best.
Such a beautiful gem of a movie
I am writing this review for American Beauty after the third time in three weeks that I have watched it and it grows on me each time I watch it. The first time I watched it, I thought maybe this movie is more of a comedy than a drama but after watching it today, I can say this is definitely a drama with some funny moments in it which is what I want from a drama rather than it taking itself too seriously. Kevin Spacey, who is simply brilliant stars as Lester Burnham , a sexually frustrated, average American husband/father who is undergoing a mid-life crisis as he hates his job and his relationships with his wife Carolyn (played superbly by Annette Bening) and daughter Jane (Thora Birch) are strained due to a number of reasons, one being that he becomes attracted to his daughter's best friend, Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari). Add to that, the arrival of their new neighbours, the Fits, Frank (Chris Cooper), Ricky (Wes Bentley) and Barbara (Allison Janney) who seem to have problems of their own. All of these intertwining story lines, acting, music, directing and the script make this movie, in my opinion, an underrated classic of the 1990's which churned out some great movies and what a way to end the decade with a fantastic movie such as this. Hard for me to find a negative with this movie but positives from the movie are the storyline, the beautiful music and score of the movie, directing and of course, the cast of the movie which won the SAG Best Ensemble Award. With the cast, everyone knew their roles in the movie and played them accordingly, Kevin Spacey as the lovable loser, Annette Bening as the ambitious and materialistic wife, Thora Birch as the self esteem-less daughter and in one of her first big roles, Wes Bentley as Ricky, the likable next door neighbour who loves his camcorder and Jane's friend, Chris Cooper as Col Fits, a homophobic, strict disciplinarian father, Allison Janney as the silent wife, Mena Suvari as the egotistical best friend and even Peter Gallagher as Carolyn's real estate rival, Buddy Kane. This film deserved it's Oscar's for Best Picture, Best Director (Sam Mendes), Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography as well as the other nominations including Best Actress-Annette Bening but in saying that, I thought the acting standouts besides the two leads could have been nominated as well including Best Supporting Actress- Thora Birch or Best Supporting Actor- Chris Cooper who put in one of the performances of the year 1999 and has stuck with me ever since or Wes Bentley; either one, take your pick, they were both great.
A Tribute to the Beauty of Life.

It happens very rarely. You meet people in life who leave you with a lingering sense of familiarity. People, who no matter what they are, leave you with a sense of having asked a few questions; questions you have been wanting to ask yourself for a long time but have been putting it away simply because you don't want to face them. That's what happens when you start understanding the characters of `American Beauty'. It's like looking at the mirror and seeing someone you don't want to see, you don't want to know.

This film is an acknowledgement of our times; the pain and the curses that it brings…and the hope that it still instills in individual inspite of it. The story begins in a slow, casual narrative with a kind of indifference that makes it extremely tragic. But then as you zoom in to the lives of the characters you sense the dormant passions, the fears, the hope. Sam Mendes has done an excellent job in scattering a handful of characters in a plot where they are caught in the ebb and flow of life. Even if they run, they don't go very far, and finally come back to where they started. The background music complements the sensitive slowness of the film in a manner that is quite soulful. The camera acts almost like a silent observer and its role is, to have no role in the story. It just documents actions, reactions, emotions and feelings. In the noninterference of these other ingredients of film making, what gains poignance is the story, the plot, the lives of the characters. All the character in this film, the father, the mother, the daughter, her friend, the daughter's boyfriend, his father, his mother the neighbours … all of them are all caught in a society which has sapped their spirits in some way making them dysfunctional pieces of life. Life, which leaves no purpose, no meaning. It is a simple rambling on of mundane existence which one seldom questions. Yet one cant blame the society because what makes a society is the people. And one can't blame the people either. They are caught in such a black hole in time, which refuses to acknowledge them, as individuals with their individual preferences, which they can't live with, can't live without! The loveless marriage of Kevin Spacey, the stage of his life determining his need for a sensuous relationship if not a fruitful one, his life drifting away in front of him like he never belonged, his wife's new lover, his unhappy job situation, his lust for his daughter's friend are not connected events yet they have a bearing on each other leaving him no room for escape. Yet he tries to be an understanding father, a compromising husband, a faithful employee. He tries but fails. He is a guy I have seen next door, you have seen next door. He could be anywhere, but only in a time like this, when individualism has brought with it the bane of isolation. You empathize with him and wonder, `Haven't I ever felt this way?' And then when you see this man changing…slowly but steadily transforming himself to what he would really like to be, you feel happy for him. He is beginning to understand his space in this world and Kevin Spacey does a wonderful job of portraying that transformation in the character. He has got into the character like it was he. The collage of the other characters brings out the fears, the insecurities, and the confusions that we live with. Annette Bennings' portrayal of the frustrated wife is absolutely fantastic. The character lives through her emotional outbursts, her rigorous routine life, her crippled relationship with her husband, and her unsatisfied professional life with such amazing chaos and yet it is so simple actually. It is so natural! Her internal traumas are well portrayed by the actress and you feel sorry for her even when you know she might have had a way out of the tragic situation she is in. Thora Birch is the absolute teenager. Caught between socially accepted concepts and her own self which does not fit in there, like any other teenager anywhere in the world in times like these she wonders whether she is a freak! Allison Janning and Chris Cooper are stunning in their short roles. They portray the senselessness of a system that breeds self-denial as part of societal ethics, some cope with it some take shelter in letting their minds wander. They are like two sides of a coin, so different from each other in dealing with truth yet so similar in what they are running away from.

Wes Butler as Ricky is perhaps the only one among the characters who has retained his sanity. His ability to see beauty in small, inane things surface so gently through the chaos in the film that one suddenly realizes what one is missing. It questions our inability to fathom darkness and touch light, our insufficiency to deal with our schizophrenic selves caught up in the mess of societal paradigms. He retains his individuality by being a part of a system that is rotting. In fact by helping the system to rot. His dealing in drugs thus becomes symbolic of a person who is helping a dying system die. He is abnormal. He does not fit in; perhaps that is his way of not conforming. But the most poignant part of the film is the end. When you see Lester's entire life pass through a haze of the present, you feel so completely awed at what beauty life actually holds for every one of us. As the glorious days of his childhood, the loving days of his marriage, his daughter float across his mind, and you hear him say how full of gratitude he is for all the wonder and beauty life actually has to offer, you just sit there in that balcony seat and shut your eyes for a second to glance into your soul. You wonder, `Why did all that laughter have to die?'

Look Closer...
The first time I heard about this movie I thought it was this movie and about a man with cancer and then read a lot of good things about and then say some trailers and then I saw it. At first I did not like this movie but than say it again on T.V and then loved it ever since. This is one of the most original films I have ever seen. The performances are one of the best and more Oscars should have been handed out. The directing by Sam Mendes is superb and I'm glad that he won the Oscar. Alan Ball wrote one of the best screenplay and story's ever thought and there's a reason why he won the Oscar and most deserving. This is the Best of the 1990's and that decade had a lot of great movies came out( Goodfellas, L.A Confedintil, Pulp Fiction to name a few). This was the first movie that I saw that was perfect and I had to see it over and over so I can just uncover everything that was in this movie. This movie is in my top ten movies of all time and I'm glad that it's rank number 35 and that one of the reason why I joined this because it was the only website people respect my opinions and agreed with me. Keven Spacey gives his best performance and one of the best of time. Spacey brings a great performance for a really deep and is just a great character. Annette Bening does a great and for some reason missed the Oscar. Chris Copper does a great job and didn't get notice that much, also did Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari and thora Birch did a great job and should have more notice. Sam Mendes does a great directing job and is one the best film debut ever. This film was one the best ever made and should be seen by everyone hows looking for great movie or how just want have fun watching a movie.
a beautiful classic
The title of the movie says it all. Beauty is all this movie is about, beautiful actors, director, script, production, screenplay, soundtrack, and everything else that contribute with this movie is beautiful. I loved how they turned simple things, such as a family (that in this case is what the movie is based on), and turn it into something absolutely amazing. If you read the word "beutiful" or "beauty" many times, well its because its true, everything is, literally everything is pure beauty. The performances held by the actors and actress are incredible, specially Kevin Spacey's and Annette Bening's. They did and excellent work together. It felt as if they shared the spotlight, what I mean with this is that they sort of trade it, at one time you could see how Kevin lets Annette make a wonderful performance and "viceversa". That little touch of the red roses was absolutely incredible. Also the character who filmed everything and even if it was a plastic bag somehow they made them sound as if it was the most beautiful thing ever. I couldn't get over this movie for like a week, it really amazed me, I fell in love with it. Maybe its because this film is my favorite movie, or maybe its because everything the put in this movie is fantastic, but practically everyone who has seen this movie, and specially if you like classics, good movies, that deserve to be recognized by the history of excellent movies.
A beautiful movie
I saw a sneak preview of American Beauty recently and all I can say is that I intend to see it again. This is a WONDERFUL movie that is worth the money to see in the theaters (the only movie I've been to where half the audience broke into applause during the film). Kevin Spacey plays Lester, a man who, while going through a mid-life crisis, begins to lust after a teenage friend of his daughter's. Spacey is, of course, a fabulous actor and really shines in this role. There are a few interwoven story lines involving Spacey's relationship with his control freak wife (Annette Bening, who is good if a little bit over the top in this role) and daughter, and the family next door, which includes a military general father, a mother who is apparently clinically depressed, and a very interesting son who is obsessed with filming beautiful things (including Lester's daughter Jane). What is unusual about this movie is that the plot is not unusual or particularly unique--it's a couple of families in an anonymous American suburb and how they relate--but the filming of the movie is absolutely beautiful, and is done in a way that makes the film alternately hilarious, heartbreaking, and horrific. It is definitely for mature audiences--there is some violence and a couple of frontal nudity scenes (both of which are essential and very tastefully done)--but older teens might enjoy it as well. Be wary of how the media chooses to portray this movie--it may be called a "black comedy," but, while sometimes hilarious, it is definitely a drama. Go see it--I don't think you'll be sorry.
I saw this movie at a free preview screening and was just stunned. Truly awesome performances from all the cast lead to a fantastic movie. But the main, show stealing performance falls to a plastic bag. You'll see what I mean.
This film surrounds more than just one man,It includes all of those lonely people who live in this loveless world.

American Beauty is a film that will not turn on people who are squeamish or those who don't want to come up against factual topics,It is for those who find pleasure in films with profundity and abstruseness.

A great film like The American Beauty shows that there are yet touching movies that come out of Hollywood.
Close To Perfection
The intention is so clear that everything else falls into place, perfectly. Kevin Spacey's suburban husband and father reminded me of his character in "The Ref" and that could only be a good thing. Annette Bening and her giggle works wonders here. Their marriage is a tabloid version of a "Who's Afraid To Virginia Woolf" Which means very close to someone we know. The biggest surprises in the film. besides the amazing dexterity of Sam Mendes at his first outing behind the camera, are West Bentley. Chris Cooper, Thora Brch and Allison Janney. As I'm writing this 8 years after its first release, the Oscars and the whole hullabaloo, I'm very surprised that West Bentley hasn't become a major star. He is amazing in "American Beauty" the complexities of his character are based on recognizable human stands, the hardest to face up to and I went where he went. Thora Birch is lovely as the object of his attention and the film, I believe, is here to say.
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