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American Beauty (Widescreen Edition)
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Marking the feature film directorial debut of award-winning theatre director Sam Mendes this funny moving and shocking journey through life in suburban America follows the trials and tribulations of Lester (Kevin Spacey) and Carolyn (Annette Bening) an upper-middle class couple whose marriage - and lives - are slowly unraveling. Lester s wife hates him his daughter Jane regards him with contempt and his boss is positioning him for the ax. So Lester decides to make a few changes in his life; the freer he gets the happier he gets which is even more maddening to his wife and daughter. But Lester is about to learn that the ultimate freedom comes at the ultimate price. Winner of five Academy Awards: Best Picture Director Actor Screenplay and Cinematography.System Requirements:Starring: Kevin Spacey Annette Bening Thora Birch Chris Cooper Peter Gallagher Mena Suvari and Wes Bentley. Directed By: Sam Mendes. Running Time: 122 Min. Color. This film is presented in "Widescreen" format. Copyright 2000 Universal Distribution Corp.Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: DRAMA Rating: R UPC: 667068538229 Manufacturer No: 65382

From its first gliding aerial shot of a generic suburban street, American Beauty moves with a mesmerizing confidence and acuity epitomized by Kevin Spacey's calm narration. Spacey is Lester Burnham, a harried Everyman whose midlife awakening is the spine of the story, and his very first lines hook us with their teasing fatalism--like Sunset Boulevard's Joe Gillis, Burnham tells us his story from beyond the grave.

It's an audacious start for a film that justifies that audacity. Weaving social satire, domestic tragedy, and whodunit into a single package, Alan Ball's first theatrical script dares to blur generic lines and keep us off balance, winking seamlessly from dark, scabrous comedy to deeply moving drama. The Burnham family joins the cinematic short list of great dysfunctional American families, as Lester is pitted against his manic, materialistic realtor wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening, making the most of a mostly unsympathetic role) and his sullen, contemptuous teenaged daughter, Jane (Thora Birch, utterly convincing in her edgy balance of self-absorption and wistful longing). Into their lives come two catalytic outsiders. A young cheerleader (Mena Suvari) jolts Lester into a sexual epiphany that blooms into a second adolescence. And an eerily calm young neighbor (Wes Bentley) transforms both Lester and Jane with his canny influence.

Credit another big-screen newcomer, English theatrical director Sam Mendes, with expertly juggling these potentially disjunctive elements into a superb ensemble piece that achieves a stylized pace without lapsing into transparent self-indulgence. Mendes has shrewdly insured his success with a solid crew of stage veterans, yet he's also made an inspired discovery in Bentley, whose Ricky Fitts becomes a fulcrum for both plot and theme. Cinematographer Conrad Hall's sumptuous visual design further elevates the film, infusing the beige interiors of the Burnhams' lives with vivid bursts of deep crimson, the color of roses--and of blood. --Sam Sutherland

Customer Reviews:

  • Seems like the perfect life. But look a little closer...
    American Beauty (1999) Lester and Carolyn Burnham seem to have it all: a nice house, two well-paid jobs, a couple of expensive cars, and a beautiful daughter. But as is so often true in these modern times, a lot of dysfunction hides behind the mask of happy normalcy.
    In truth, Lester (Kevin Spacey) is going middle age crazy, pining for his carefree youth and making goo-goo eyes at his daughter's Lolita-like best friend. Carolyn (Annette Bening) has discovered that "having it all" isn't nearly enough; she throws herself into her real estate job to try to compensate. And the daughter is going through that economy sized variety pack of teen angst, ranging from insecurity to parent loathing. Add in a set of new next door neighbors with their own problems (Dad's a bigoted ex-Marine; Mom's a zoned out space case, and son is a fairly creepy video voyeur); stir them all together well, and you have the perfect recipe for suburban disaster.
    Director Sam Mendes, writer Alan Bell, and especially the actors make the most of this dramatic black comedy. The mix is perfectly realized, with laugh out loud scenes that nonetheless have a sense of tragedy and doom about them.
    Writer Ball has a background in sitcoms, so it's no surprise that ther is a lot of sharp tongued verbal byplay. More surprising is how well a thirty-four year old director can guide his actors through the minefield of fortysomething neuroses. But then, you don't hire actors like Spacey and Bening because they'll do a mean karaoke at the wrap party. Spacey is as excellent as he is expected to be, and he is matched scene for scene by the slightly underrated Bening. The rest of the cast lend fine support, with newcomer Wes Bentley standing out.
    This is a quirky, somewhat unusual film, with a few stylized fantasy scenes that add to the flavor overall. If you enjoy such productions, this is definitely a good choice to sink your teeth into. Also with Peter Gallagher (Summer Lovers) and Chris Cooper (Lone Star)....more info
  • No Stars, actually
    One of the the most overrated film in recent times. In years to come, if not already, people will wonder why such a fuss was made about it. A supreme confidence trick of marketing that was so successful the audience didn't know, and some still don't know, that it was being had....more info
  • *spectacular*
    this is one of my FAVORITE movies. i highly recommand it to be in your movie collection. the music in the film is moving. the film itself is amazing :) enjoy
    ...more info
  • A Mind-Shattering Film, But Only Film Buffs Will Truly Appreciate It
    American Beauty is one of those movies that you have to see to understand it. Box office reviews and web commentaries barely touch on its amazing genius. The film has a largely visual storyline, so that makes it hard for people who don't process visual information very well or aren't sight-sensitive. Much is information communicated over these subtle details. Thus, those of us who are used to thinking analytically when watching films will know how to appreciate it, while those who simply want to rent this video and watch over popcorn will certainly feel disappointed.

    I don't want to reveal too much of the storyline, but I will say that a core theme of the film is exploring what lurks behind the sugary image of middle-class, white suburbia and how appearances often contradict reality in astonishing ways. As someone who trained in philosophy while in undergrad, I would say that the film certainly has a steady nihilistic undercurrent that comes with post-modern existentialist themes. It's depressing, but depressing in a way that makes you come alive. It speaks the bitter truth by telling us each of the characters' lies. Even the title of the film evokes a sort of sweet, twisted irony.

    Those who have longed for the 'Leave it to Beaver' or 'Father Knows Best' type of life will find this film revolting, but those who identify with 'The Simpsons' as being closer to reality will give it two thumbs up. American Beauty will definitely strike a sharp chord in a large audience, but I still say that only film buffs and those used to abstract-thinking will enjoy it. To those who simply want a shifty, action-filled plot, the movie might at first (unfairly) seem a bit boring....more info
  • Why did it win Best Picture of 1999?
    This review is for the DVD Region 1 disc of American Beauty (1999).
    I did not like this movie. Why did it win the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1999? The way they filmed the ending where you saw the reaction and where everyone was at, at the scene of the crime was very well done.
    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) was better than this....more info
  • Absolutely Amazing
    This is one of my favorite movies and it gets better each time you watch it. You can identify with some of the characters in the movie and although it is dark and sad, it has a moral to the story and the ending was just amazingly done. Even though your sad for the main character, you still realize that his life had finished in a weirdly positive way. Hence the smile at the end. I highly recommend this movie. It should be in everyone's DVD collection and is one of those movies you can watch over and over again without getting bored. And it is not entirely always dark. There is comedy woven into the movie as well. Again, one of the best Kevin Spacey movies ever....more info
  • Excellent, Great, Convincing movie!
    This movie is really great. It doesn't seem much like a best picture movie, but who cares, it's an awesome movie! It is very disturbing, depressing, and serious. It's supposed to be a comedy-drama, but if you ask me, it's mostly a drama, not to say it isn't funny, it's just very serious, especially at the end. They said before I saw it that the movie would get stuck in my head for days. It concerned me forever. Of course, they said the same thing for Million Dollar Baby, but that didn't concern me that much, that is, not as much as it would've if I haden't seen Scary Movie 4. But still, those who haven't seen this movie, see it, it's a great best picture movie. The acting is great, Kevin Spacey won an oscar for it. The actors, such as Chris Cooper, are very convincing in the movie. The movie is dark, depressing, and disturbing. I know i've already said that, but it's just so true, still, it may spook you, not that it's a horror, it is, however, very, well, you know, but it's still a very good, dark film, so give it a chance....more info
  • I want to look good naked
    -Lester Burnham is a great example of how sex or the promise of sex can change a man's life. When we meet him, his life is PAINFULLY ordinary. He works a poop job that he hates, he leads a sexless marriage with his wife that he has no love for anymore, whacking off in the shower is his high point and his daughter hates him. His life seems to be going downhill fast till he goes to his daughter's school function and falls for her cheerleader friend Angela. He has fantasies about her, which all somehow include rose petals. He decides that in order to have a chance with Angela he must start working out so he can look good naked. This begins to trigger a change in his life as he begins to do all the things he's always wanted do. He quits his job and gets a new one flipping burgers, buys himself a pretty sweet car and he begins to take charge of his life. All seems to be going well for good ol' Lester till his homophobic neighbor gets the wrong idea and does something horrible to our hero.

    -Who knew that an average looking town filled with seemingly average people could make such an interesting story. Alan Ball did and thank goodness he had such a sick and twisted mind to write this great story. Fans of the great and badly missed "Six Feet Under" will no doubt recognize all the weird Alan Ball signature in this movie that he translated into the TV show. From the weird fantasies to regular people, doing weird things is all Alan Ball at his best. I'm guessing if I were to peek into his mind I wouldn't find a happy man leading an ordinary life like the characters he comes up with seem to be. Considering the tone of the movie and just how f***king creepy the opening is one would think this would be a serious movie but it has more laughs than the crap that get passed as comedies nowadays.

    -The best filmmakers always somehow seem to be a smidge overweight and the brilliant Sam Mendes continues that unhealthy trend. i guess i have to gain a couple if i ever want that golden statue. Mendes has this great obsession with simplicity that goes hand in hand with Ball's quirky script. Most filmmakers would probably go ever board with the story and turn the dark humor into slapstick but Mendes keeps his cool and in the process makes the movie better for it. I've only seen three of his movies and this is best yet. I just love how he took things that looked simple in Ball's script like the paper bag caught in the wind and made it into something beautiful like the way it is in the movie now. Can't wait for his next potential masterpiece. the late great Conrad L. Hall will always be remembered as one of the great DP's of our time and this movie as one of his best looking. Much like Mendes the cinematography is very simple and has many hidden messages if you looked closely or watched the movie 1000 times.

    -One thing I love about this movie is the nail biting suspense in the last act. I just love the scene when Chris Cooper goes up to Spacey and you just don't know what this crazy man is going to do. Is he going to kill him, punch him or kiss him? I've never had a movie do that to me before and I really loved it. Really gets you into the movie. Giving his best performance yet is Keyer Soze as Lester Burnham. he's a man that want more in life and his transformation from boring normal everyday life to happy and content is captured wonderfully by Spacey. If memory serves me right then I believe the hicks at the academy gave him an award for this. It caused some controversy as many people thought that crown should have gone to Denzel.

    -Thora Birch dose a brilliant job of playing the Goth like Jane who despite her short screen time manages to capture you and really makes you feel for her character although she does get whiny like a lot of us around that age. this and "Ghost World" are the best acting jobs she's done and I hope she gets more jobs that showcase her talents. Mena Suvari does the job of the insecure seductress really well. I love how her character isn't all one dimensional as we learn more about why she puts on such a shallow exterior. Chris Cooper plays the homophobic army man nicely so does his wife whose played by an unrecognizable Allison Janney. With a dad that's so uptight and a mother that's virtually dead you'd expect their offspring to be a stiff but instead of that we get a dope dealing DV obsessed boy played by Wes Bentley who looks WAY too old to be in high school. What high schooler has a 5 o'clock shadow?

    -it won a lot of Oscars and got a lot of buzz and it deserved every bit of it....more info
    After watching this movie, it became an instant classic in my movie collection. How could ordinary life be so enthralling ?

    The characters are represented perfectly, and the story couldn't have been told any better.

    The genre for this movie is drama.

    If you haven't seen American Beauty, you're missing out. ...more info
  • Perfect ain't so perfect.
    Lester (Kevin Spacey) is middle aged and living what on the outside looks like a perfect life. Big house in a nice neighborhood, 2 cars, pretty wife and daughter, and a good job. But on the inside, he's miserable. His job sucks and he has to answer to a younger boss that hasn't even been there a few months. His wife is cold `b' and doesn't even want to have sex with him. His daughter hates him for reasons unknown. And he just really doesn't even like himself that much either. Then one day, he goes to a basketball game with his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) to watch his daughter Jane (Thora Birch) do her performance in her cheerleading squad. That day changes his life on the spot. He sees Angela (Mena Suvari), Jane's friend, out on the court also, and he realizes his life is in a rut and he wants to be free from it. He quits his job and starts to work out again (mainly to get Angela's attention). He sells his car to get the car of his dreams. And he starts to smoke pot.

    Luckily his new next door neighbor, Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) is a pot dealer. Not only a pot dealer but a weird documentarian that goes to school with Jane. Ricky's dad is a tough father who is also a homophobic Colonel in the marine corp. He loves his son, but sure doesn't know how to show it correctly. Though Ricky and Jane start to like each other, the interactions between Ricky and Lester leave the dad to wondering what is really going on between the two.

    Carolyn, though a coldhearted `B', used to not be what she is today. She was once a fun loving free spirited girl, but Lester has no clue where that girl went. She's so wrapped up in her real estate business she doesn't even think of Lester anymore. Her arch nemesis in the biz is Buddy Kane, and even though she tries her best to beat the man, nothing works and it makes her incredibly stressed out. As Lester is trying to work out his mid-life crisis, his wife Carolyn is working out her stress in a much different way.

    American Beauty is such a great movie. The way it looks into the soul of the normal suburbanite family is really funny and great. Nothing is perfect no matter how it looks. Somedays I really feel like Lester even though I'm not married or have kids. Where I'm just stuck doing the same thing every day and then `BAM', I go a little crazy and break out of that shell. I've even quit my job before because of this. Thank God to, because now I'm much happier. Though you can't help but feel bad for Lester. At least I do. He did so much to support his family, to have them only hate him in the end. Sure he's not always there for his daughter, but that's no reason to be hated. She actually joked about killing him. Seriously... what the heck. Her life could be a million times worse. And his wife, ugh, I'm not even going to go into it. How a woman could do what she does to him is ridiculous. And even though Ricky Fitts is friggin crazy, he's still a cool character. I don't buy into that whole `deep' and `emo' stuff he says about floating bags and dead people/animals, but how he's so blunt about things makes me really like that character.

    In the end, I would definitely watch this movie. Such a great story, and such a sad ending.

    P.S. - I really hope Angela was 18.
    ...more info
  • Touching
    American Beauty is a spectacular movie of hope and life that has captured the hearts of so many people. Sam Mendes, the director, and Alan Ball, the screenwriter, both succeed in displaying the lonely life of Lester Burnham, a middle-aged man who takes a closer look at the world he lives in, and progresses on a journey to get his life back. The beginning tone of the movie is dull and uninspiring as Lester Burnham embarks on another boring day. He is seen as a prisoner looking out onto a world of beauty, a world that he once knew. He seems to be trapped behind bars everywhere he goes.

    Sam Mendes was born in Reading, England in 1965. American Beauty was his first feature film in 1999 and it won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. He is now happily married to actress Kate Winslet. They have one child.

    In the beginning of the movie during Lester's monologue, the audience finds out he is going to die, but at this point he seems already dead. His life is lonely and he has a low and tense relationship with his wife and daughter. Every aspect of this broken family is distant and isolated. Colors are dark and dull except for the red roses that so regularly appear throughout the course of the movie. The roses in the movie represent fantasy and life. The life of a rose depicts the direction of the movie and also the life of Lester. A rose begins as only a seed, waiting to be nurtured and cared for. It then transforms into a bud after it has grown and grown, and is only seconds away from blooming into the next phase - the American beauty. After the rose has had its beauty, it dies, satisfied and fulfilled because not only did it live, it lived a life of beauty.

    Throughout the course of the movie and the introduction of all the characters, one specific character stands out more than any. Ricky, a teenage kid and the Burnham's new neighbor, brings light and beauty to the suburban family. He influences every character, directly and/or indirectly, and shows them how beautiful life really is. Lester begins to break free from his life of imprisonment and manages to live life without a care in the world. At one point Lester states, "I'm just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose." This movie illustrates that there are always preconceived notions about people and life, but in reality, there is usually a lot more going on. People are always searching for meaning in their lives, and Lester Burnham finds that meaning... that beauty.

    American Beauty is a movie that will surely touch the lives of anyone who should watch it. It is a film that can be viewed by both young and old and never cease to send a beautiful message.

    ...more info
  • This is BY FAR the best movie that I have had the chance to lay my eyes on!
    Let's get this out of the way: Annette Bening (Carolyn) totally steals the show. She shows so many different sides to a human being, especially the extreme. She's super peppy and I almost loved to hate her in the movie. Kevin Spacey was pretty good. He plays a depressed man named Lester who's highlight of the day is pleasuring himself in the shower in the morning. In many ways I could relate to this character. Actually, most of the characters are relate able. Lester and Carolyn have a daughter by the name of Jane. She's pretty mean to her parents and wishes they would just disappear. I liked her character, but Mena Suvari's character was even better. I like the scene where some girl says "You're no goddamn Christie Turlington." Her response to that was very funny.

    The ending was quite exciting with many things going on so I was definitely sad when it was over...I'm glad they never made a part II to it too because they probably would have tainted the name.

    I left a lot out but I'll just say that if you haven't seen the movie, you really need to. Rent it, buy it, borrow it from a friend; whatever. Just get your grubby paws on it. It shows how beautifully messed up life can be. Bittersweet really. :)...more info
  • American what??
    An excellent parody for the neurotic and borderline lifestyle of many people in the modern times (not only of Americans). A wealth of personality traits and psychosocial responses in one single movie. For those knowledgeable in psychology, it must be a fascinating experience to watch this movie, and to find out how perfectly it correlates with the troubled lifes of many individuals living in the "civilized world" and particularly in high developed societies. (Read the DSM IV and find out for yourself) A superb production, well worth seeing more than once, with an open mind, of course! ...more info
  • One of my favorite films
    From the opening moments of the movie, we know Lester Burnham is going to die; we just do not know the specifics, nor do we realize how little the knowledge of his demise will detract from our enjoyment of the film leading up to this final act. Things appear to be perfectly fine in the Burnham household: Lester and Carolyn are both gainfully employed, have a large, beautiful house in suburbia, drive luxury automobiles and their healthy, robust teenaged daughter is a cheerleader on the high school squad. Yet, every seasoned filmgoer knows to never trust appearances. Carolyn's career as a real estate agent isn't going well, so she's hoping that sleeping with the enormously successful real estate king will help rub off some of his fortune. Lester, on the other hand, doesn't have a career; he has a job. In fact, he has had the same job with the same employer for several years. The distinction between "career" and "job" is vitally important to those of us who merely have a "job." Sure, it might pay reasonably well, though not necessarily. A "job," however, is not something we envision ourselves doing for the rest of our lives and it is certainly not how we define ourselves. In fact, we would rather not respond when asked what we do for a living. It simply does not matter to us. What is worse, Lester does not have a sense of identity. "That's okay. I wouldn't remember me either," he responds when one of his wife's acquaintances mistakenly thinks they are meeting for the first time. Perhaps not many people can identify with this, though I certainly can. Lester and I are equally unremarkable, failing to make an impression on most people we meet. Maybe at one point in the past, or even still today deep down, we want to remain anonymous. It does have its advantages at times. It is often frustrating or embarrassing, however, and we realize this. Sometimes when people are indistinct, yet want to be noticed, they resort to drastic tactics. This is how murder sprees happen. But I digress. Rather than murder people, Lester nonetheless does take radical measures. With an unloving wife and a daughter who finds him an embarrassment, he chooses to quit everything in an effort to start over. In a quest to redefine himself, he returns to life the way it was before he was supposed to define himself. He was much more comfortable then. "I want the job with the least amount of responsibility," he tells the teenaged manager of the fast food restaurant at which he applies for a job. Few responsibilities, not accountable to anyone and no one accountable to him; hanging out, lifting weights and smoking pot; this is life the way it was meant to be. Unfortunately for Lester, the young man (Wes Bentley) supplying him with weed happens to have an authoritarian, unenlightened father (Chris Cooper) with a particularly strong homophobic streak. Some misunderstandings occur and trouble ensues. While this film might not appeal to all tastes, judging from the high ratings and overwhelmingly positive reviews that many people see much of themselves in the characters portrayed in this film. I know this is the case for me. ...more info
  • Awewsome!
    One of my all-time favorite movies. Disturbing, yes, (don't watch w/ the kids)but hilarious and tragic ath the same time....more info
  • Sticks With You
    Watched this movie for the first time last night. I found the movie to be haunting in that it reflected my life and I would imagine a great many other's lives. We spend our life chasing money, status, the perfect home and career and somehow we lose ourselves in the process, and when we finally end up with what we have been working so hard to obtain all these years, we find we are empty, bitter shells of what we once were. A very eye opening movie for me. ...more info
  • It's in the bag.
    Suburban angst turns funny then tragic. We should all reach the spiritual level Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham reaches in his last hours.
    The kid with the video camera becomes a surprising focal point thanks to a superb acting performance by Wes Bentley. The kid and his recording of the floating plastic bag hold the key to the spiritual treasure of "American Beauty."
    This first-time collaboration of director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Alan Ball is a prime example of what Hollywood could deliver more of if the studio executives ever got their heads out of the sequels and the comic books. I'm convinced there are other fine scripts floating around waiting for the will and the daring to produce them.
    ...more info
  • Fantastic
    American Beauty is the greatest movie ever made.

    If you haven't already, watch American Beauty by yourself and give yourself some time afterwards to think it over. You will never, ever look at life the same way. It does exactly what movies are meant to do - give us a window into ourselves, and American Beauty does that better than any other film has ever done. No word of dialogue is unnecessary, no character exaggerated, everything is perfect...but if you have seen American Beauty you should know that already. Once you look closer at this movie, and see Beauty in every frame, it becomes so much easier to look closer and see Beauty in everything around you. You think I'm waxing poetic? Then you must not have seen the movie. Every character is a part of each of us: the Lester Burnham of change, the Carolyn of uncertainty and failure, the rebellion of Jane, the defeated Barbara, the false control of Angela and the Colonel, and the real control of Ricky. To me Ricky, not Lester, is the center of this story; he somehow controls or sets in motion the heart of Lester's rebirth and downfall. There are several parts of this movie where I lose control every time I see it, and none more so than the paper bag scene. To me that scene is simply the greatest monologue ever written.

    I listened to the message of American Beauty - look closely and you can find Beauty in anything - and it changed my life. I rose out of a long, deep depression and started out into the world. Sometimes there is so much Beauty in the world, I can't even stand it, and it feels like my heart is going to burst.

    This is the most beautiful movie I have ever seen. ...more info
  • American Beauty
    This superlative drama by theater director Sam Mendes peers at the dark side of American middle-class life with ripe, risqu¨¦ humor and aching poignancy. Both screenwriter Alan Ball and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall were honored along with Mendes at the 1999 Academy Awards for their evocation of suburban alienation, but Kevin Spacey, whose cool, cynical narration constitutes the film's central nervous system, deserved all the acclaim he received for bringing Lester to life (including a Best Actor Oscar). Working in a subplot involving Lester's new neighbors, an unhinged Marine (Chris Cooper) and his artsy, drug-dealing son (Wes Bentley), Mendes gives this "Beauty" a gut-wrenching finale that completes Lester's transformation....more info
  • Truly beautiful in an alarmingly tragic way...
    Standing tall as one of my all time favorite films and one of the most deserved Best Picture wins of all time, `American Beauty' never loses its impression on me. I'm forever in awe at its overall magnitude; its presence that is so overwhelmingly absorbing. From Kevin Spacey's fantastic Oscar winning performance to each and every supporting player the cast is golden and the charisma and chemistry is dynamic and ultimately unrivaled. What makes `American Beauty' so enthralling and captivating to me is the sheer relatable atmosphere and utter honesty that it portrays. This is a life not unlike our own, with the same dilemmas and controversies, the same dreams and ambitions and no matter how perfect we think we have things there is always something missing, and sooner or later we're going to have to make a change in order to find our center. Brilliantly, and I mean that with every fiber of the words very meaning, `American Beauty' fleshes out that very innate desire.

    The film follows Lester Burnham as he goes through his mid-life crisis, realizing that his wife doesn't love him anymore, his daughter finds him creepy and uninteresting, his job infuriates him; basically that his life in general is far from what he wants it to be. Through a catalog of events he begins to make serious changes, starting with his growing infatuation with his daughters cheerleading friend Angela. He begins to work out more, eat better and enjoy a little recreational drug provided by his neighbor's son Ricky. He quits his job and starts up working at the local burger joint where he can slack off and live life a teenager. He buys the ridiculously expensive sports car because he wants to and develops an attitude that repels those around him intent on dragging him down. In essence Lester becomes the man that everyman wishes he could become but lacks the `balls' to do it himself. Lester is everyman, just pushed to the limit of what any man can take.

    But this film is far more than just about a single man and his crisis. Lester's wife Caroline is also going through a bit of a mid-lifer herself. She's finally come to the realization that she is more than Lester will ever be and she wants, no she needs someone that's a better fit for her. Lester proves himself a constant embarrassment to her, and his newfound identity is making it difficult for her to function in their life together. Lester's daughter Jane is pulling away from her parents due to their apparent insanity. She can't take them anymore, her mothers constant bickering and hysterics, her father's pedophilic lust for her best friend and sudden `cool guy' syndrome. She distances herself from Angela and forms a closer connection with her neighbor Ricky, a boy who opens her eyes to the real beauty that surrounds her.

    But both Ricky and Angela themselves offer insight into the growing pandemic surrounding the American public as a whole. The film effortlessly exposes the common issues that are present in almost every home and exist within almost every human being. Ricky exists in a household run with a cold fist by his father. His every move is scrutinized and so he acts out in rebellion by living his life the exact opposite of his father's wishes, albeit behind his back. Angela is the classic case of girl-hates-self, girl-needs-attention but here she feeds off her characters energy, and most of all Spacey's energy and helps create a character that is in the end so touching and so real. Her final confrontation with Jane and Ricky is so heartbreaking and her feeling of rejection from Lester is so real. I actually was moved by her character almost as much as Spacey's.

    The entire cast, not just Spacey, pull out all the stops here. Annette Bening is flawless as Lester's controlling and hysterical wife (and I mean hysterical in both of its forms, both hilarious when needed and outrageously dramatic when needed). Thora Birch is also dynamic as Jane, and Wes Bently brilliantly captures his characters unique outlook at adolescence. Mena Suvari though really stood out for me as Angela, as did Chris Cooper who plays the domineering and controlling father effortlessly. Peter Gallagher also develops a nice supporting character, although he comes off more as a cameo, and that's hard for me to acknowledge since under normal circumstances I find him nauseating. Here though he is fantastic, both charming and endearing while equally repulsive and condescending. How he manages to pull that off is beyond me. Each and every actor here benefits greatly from the brilliant script, that's for sure.

    So, in closing, `American Beauty' is everything that is beautiful about American cinema. It's engrossing, entertaining, refreshing but most of all moving and emotionally investing. I often battle my feelings about Spacey's win only because the competition that year was so steep and I feel Crowe gave the performance of a career, but every time I watch this brilliant film I'm reminded of why he deserved his win. He was so invested, so grounded in Lester that he created one of the most likable sinners of all time, a man who we grew to love and embrace despite his faults. `American Beauty' will always be one of the most deserving Oscar winners to date and will be remembered every time we look in the mirror....more info
  • Tragicomic
    American Beauty is surreal. It's tragicomic, and to me, it brought an unconscious weirdness to my reality. I watched the movie at 3 AM and at times, the movie urged me to kill myself, to explode, to pressure and bang against everything around me and my confines (my dorm room). Unlike other semi-realistic pictures, American Beauty only hinted at this "stuffiness" of life. And that's what makes it so frustrating--yet so beautiful and aesthetic, as Rick would say.
    Precise acting, intriguing screenplay....more info
  • Don't Let the Name or Box Fool You
    I won't bother describing the plot of this movie. I just want to put in my 5 stars and say it deserved its awards and was funny as hell. The name and cover art made me think it was some kind of chick-flik, so it was a while before I watched it. If this is what you thought, forget it and make sure you see this soon. ...more info
    Although AMERICAN BEAUTY boasts one of the finest casts in recent memory, and Sam Mendes direction was flawless in this superb film about disparate, disjointed mid-America, Alan Ball's script is the true star here. The dialogue is so crisp, and ascerbic that at times it's hard to realize how 'human' and incredibly moving some of the scenes were, because only a moment before you were laughing at the absurdly, seemingly irrelevant incongruities in one dysfunctional character, or another , or perhaps the edginess of the previous satirical situation, and though this was not as disturbing as David Lynch's vision of suburbia ( BLUE VELVET ), it was much more moving. This movie should be in any serious film collection....more info
  • Very bad energy
    Wow...Based on the reviews I thought this would be a good movie, perhaps a great movie. Folks it isn't. It's like taking a trip to the dump, garbage in every direction. Unbelievably gross and repugnant human beings. Foul language abounds as do hateful people without morals or values. I didn't even make it to the half-way point of this film yet the extreme bad vibrations stayed with me for a good long while afterwards. Do yourself a favor, stay away from this cesspool. ...more info
  • A dreary story well told
    American Beauty is superbly performed and technically excellent. Despite this, I didn't care for it when I saw it in a theater.

    I decided to view it again to see if time would give me a different perspective. Nope. This tale about empty suburban lives still disappointed me. Examining how people can break out of a mind numbing rut can be illuminating and even entertaining, but every character choose a path that would only lead to aggravating their personal problems. Selfishness and death are substitutes for boredom, not solutions.
    Lying, blackmail, drugs, infidelity, fantasies about statutory rape, gay bashing, and reckless behavior grow weary. The only moral act in the film seemed so fleeting that the viewer is left unsure if it had any liberating value.

    I found the characterizations fascinating, but, in the end, I didn't care about any of these people, which made it hard to connect with the film. I also have a more optimistic view of life. Disregarding the dreary storyline, American Beauty rightfully appeals to enthusiasts who appreciate art in filmmaking. Oh yeah, and city-dwellers that need to feel superior to their suburban cousins.
    ...more info
  • Still Hollywood, but Enjoyable
    American Beauty kind of reminds me of Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica. Althought not as split evenly, and it definitely has less detractors, American Beauty is thought as either deep, provocative, and wickedly funny, or a grating, unrealistic, fake portrayal of family life, that plays out like a sitcom. Now, I am not one who automatically plays the Ghandi, being a neutral leader in the middle, somewhat frowning at both, but I'm really torn on this movie. It just does so many things right, but at the same time, does a lot of things wrong as well.

    First off, the acting in this movie is terrific. Kevin Spacey deserved whatever awards he got for best actor. Sometimes funny, emotional, perverted, sick, frightening, angry, and sometimes even all at once, his talent definitely shows. Chris Cooper plays the sadistic Colonial Fitts, and he does a great job showing how insane and mean he can be. The first time he beats the crap out of his son, I was pretty shaken up (note maybe it comes from having a father similar to him some ways). Those actors impressed me more than the others, although everyone else does fine jobs as well. And really, I give props to all the actors for kissing one another (especially Chris Cooper and Kevin Spacey). Remember, they have to be convincing with their kisses (and probably had to it more than once!). It's sometimes just fun to watch for the acting alone, even if I don't exactly agree with some of the story.

    However, while the plot is not too bad, the movie has a big tendency to fall into the pretentious. I mean, while sometimes I ACTUALLY DO feel there is so much beauty in the world (especially in nature), I do not think a plastic bag is a thing of beauty. The bag metaphor is just laughable. I agree that the slogan "Look Closer" is arrogrant as ______, too. If you don't get it, you aren't deep enough, and you need to look closer or else your a fool. Give me a _________ break. That is just ridicolous. The characters on here really aren't as profound or realistic as you think, pretty Hollywood, and embody some stereotypes. The closeted homosexual, really, who didn't see that one coming?

    Still though, while not deep, and definitely not a realstic portrayel of Suburan life really (I don't buy it, besides, how would the screewriter's know, did they study the suburbia beyond their own home? Probably not). The characters still are likeable, if a bit unrealistic. The plot is fine, so leave it alone.

    Don't believe the hype on this one for the most part, but I still reccomend watching it for sure. I still think that if you watch it without expecting yourself go into introspection (yeah right), you will enjoy it. You may love it, you may hate it, but you should definitely watch it.

    Also, the Boston Celtics logo rip-off is probably the worst thing I have ever seen in my life. Give me a break. Can you at least rip the logo off of the Sacramento Kings or the Los Angeles Clippers, or even the Utah Jazz (Lakers 4-0 in round one!)? Celtics deserve more respect than that (I'm a Lakers fan, but respect Boston anyway).

    B-...more info
  • Amazing
    twisted but amazing the whole time your excpecting somthing only to realize what you think youve vigured out isent what it seems at all!...more info