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American Beauty
Year:
1999
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Romance
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
Sam Mendes
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
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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Reviews
A beautiful film
American Beauty is the epitome of perfect emotional cinema. It boasts great direction, screen writing and performances all round, making it, in my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made.

The story follows Lester Burnham, a man who seems to have lost all hope in life, as he is stuck in a joyless marriage and has trouble connecting with his teenage daughter. This all changes when he meets Angela, his daughter's best friend. From then on, Lester decides to take back control of his life. The question is, how will it affect those around him?

Kevin Spacey gives a career defining performance and once again nails it as Lester, a man so fed up with life that he needed a radical change. The evolution of the character is done to perfection and Spacey's Oscar winning work is the proof. All other actors do their parts in great fashion as well and make the movie even better. With inspired performances like these, the film only gets better with a magical combination of Alan Ball's script and Sam Mendes' debut as a cinematic director. Among other things I love about this film, I can't go on without mentioning the heart wrenching soundtrack that pulls out a wallop of emotions.

American Beauty is a wonderful, yet ultimately tragic tale of how people can hide their true selves. However they choose to change, one thing is certain: it will affect everything in the status quo. Lester's story is the example of that and it is one that I will heartedly support every time I watch this movie.

Rating: 10/10
2014-10-11
BEST FILM OF THE 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!@!!!!!
1999-09-25
Ages like a rose
Tragedy meets melodrama meets the fearless hip '90s, following the Burnham family as they deal with their first-world problems. Lester and Carolyn (Spacey and Bening) are getting older, and both are trying in their own way to hang on to the last moments of what each thinks is the prime of their lives; while their teenage daughter Jane (Birch) is having issues of her own, dealing with finding her identity and not feeling pretty enough next to her "friend" Angela (Suvari). Neighboring Fits family (consisting of Bentley, Cooper and Janney) work their way into the mix because the son is stalking Jane. A film that speaks to those who have seen a midlife crisis, and is still entertaining to those who have it to look forward to. Oscar-winner is entertaining right from the get-go, and is an experience as flawless as a rose upon first viewing. However, after you've seen it a few times, the rose begins to wilt, unmasking contradictory characters and inexplicable events that unfold just to appease its themes of confinement, conformity, redemption and sexuality—why does Lester lecture Carolyn about materialism right after HE's the one that bought a Pontiac Firebird? Why didn't writer Ball or director Mendes at least try to make Bening's character slightly redeemable? All the many other questions to raise require spoilers, but the list goes on... Hard to completely hate because it's easy to understand why so many people like it.

★★½ (out of four)
2015-10-16
..still baffled..
I saw a special preview of the movie tonight. It's true. I laughed. I cried. I saw some things there that I never thought would be there. But, nothing hit me so hard as the ending until 15 minutes after I had left. I had to walk away from the group of people I was with, because I was so flabergasted. I suggest anyone who wants a movie that will *truly* leave you moved (unlike a certain overhyped with movie), I HIGHLY press "American Beauty" onto you. I will be there many more times.
1999-09-07
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!
2015-04-13
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?'

2000-05-19
My Favorite Film From the 90s
American Beauty is a "love it" or "hate it" film, and you never know if it has more 'love it' or 'hate it' viewers. Personally, I love it -from the first sight, from the last sight, from the eternal sight. It is my favorite film of the 90s, one of my personal twenty favorites ever. I think that American Beauty is an instant classic, and it will stay that way as long as people watch movies.

The film is deep, dark, and tragic. The title is American Beauty but it is more like Universal Sadness. It is not about superheroes - it is about very flawed, tired, and shallow people – but just as the tag line says – one must look closer.

I live in a town like the one in American Beauty too - nice houses, brick, vinyl, neatly cut grass and flowers. "The air is fresh and sweet like a child's kiss". I jog in the mornings or in the evenings and people often sit on their porches or water their lawns or jog just as I do. We always smile at each other and say "Hi, how are you?" I always think to myself - what goes on beyond the closed doors of these people that I see? They could be happy with their families and with their jobs. They do look happy. Or, they may be tired and disappointed with their lives, trying to do something to change it - or just letting the days pass by.

Leo Tolstoy opened his novel Anna Karenina with the words, "All happy families are happy in the same way; each unhappy family is unique in its unhappiness". That's why it is much more interesting for me to try and understand each unhappy family – why did it happen? The family in American Beauty used to be happy - there is even proof - the photograph with three of them, happy, laughing. Where did it go? When? Why? When was the moment in time when two loving people became strangers and prisoners in their own nice house with the beautiful roses outside? These are the questions I kept thinking about when I saw AB for the first time, and I still can not find the answers. Can something be changed? How? What do you do to wake up from the lethargic dream that your life has become? How do you reach the people who are the closest to you? What the hell do you need a $3000 couch for if you can not make love to your wife on it? What is the purpose of material possessions if they become more important than the smile of your daughter? When did you start to think that giving your children the best toys possible would substitute for a talk, for a sincere and honest interest as to what they really worry about? I did not find American Beauty patronizing and simplistic - it asks difficult questions but does not provide you with any easy answers. I still look for those answers. I don't blame the movie for imperfection of its characters - I know they do exist. We don't like them - but can one be mad when looking in the mirror? I want to add a couple of words about Spacey's character, Lester Burnham (BTW, Spacey may stop acting right now, and he probably should after all the flops he has produced since AB, but he will always be remembered for Lester). Lester could say about himself what another flawed but unforgettable character did 25 years before him: "Well, I tried, didn't I? Goddamnit, at least I did that." Lester Burnham died a happy man; the last words he heard in his life were that his daughter was in love - it meant for him that she could feel, that she was alive because love changes us and makes us better. His last sight was that of a picture where happiness and joy were captured forever. In death, he had at last captured that for which he had longed for the most in life – happiness.

He died a happy man - not many do.
2004-10-21
Delivers a beautiful, lasting message
When I first watched American Beauty, I was in awe. To many, this feeling was mutual. I, like most viewers, felt as if I had just witnessed the ultimate achievement in cinema—a film that actually changed my life. I thought it was the deepest, most profound film ever. I believed the message. I was ready to appreciate all the beauty in the world.

Fast forward a few years, my view changed. American Beauty is creepy and pretentious and stomach churningly awkward and so over the top at times that it elicits eye rolls.

I don't mean to rip the movie completely. Upon second viewing, I still enjoyed it immensely. It's aware and insightful, even if it's not quite as profound as everyone believed 15 years ago.

In any case, American Beauty remains an Oscar worthy movie, in part, because of the flawless acting of Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey, who play two iconic roles even though they're essentially playing clichés, which is a super under-appreciated accomplishment.

Seriously, think about it. They play a nuclear suburban couple in an ordinary neighborhood with an ordinary teenage daughter (despite what Ricky thinks about her) and ordinary family issues. Even the greatest sources of conflict in the movie (her affair and his mid-life crisis) are exceedingly ordinary. And still they manage to give extraordinary and lasting performances. Impressive work.

All that ordinary really serves as the point of the film. Ricky, the kid who films stuff, sees things that most people consider ordinary and frames them in his mind as "beautiful." To an extent, he has a wonderful, enlightened perspective. Except for when he crosses the threshold into weird.

Case and point: "Ricky, why are you filming that dead bird?"

"Because it's beautiful."

That's an iffy assertion at best, Ricky. I'm all about finding beauty in everyday places, but I find many things a heckuva lot more beautiful than a dead bird. For one, a living bird.

American Beauty has a worthwhile message; we've established that. But the message means little if not delivered properly. Thankfully it is.

In fact the message delivery is the strength of the film. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to present this family living the American dream, a ubiquitous concept, while exploring it with a deep, multi-perspective approach.

It deconstructs the whole concept of the American dream. We see the nuclear family—husband, wife and daughter. They live in a nice house in a beautiful neighborhood. The parents each work good jobs. The daughter attends a nice school. They should all be perfectly happy. Yet…

As we peel back the layers, we see the flaws. The daughter hates her parents and struggles to fit in at high school. Mom tries and fails to connect with her daughter while she also tries and fails at work. Dad seems to have lost interest in all things aside from lusting after his daughter's teenage friend.

They are miserable.

This all forces us to ask: this is the American dream? What's so great about this? As the story ultimately winds to its conclusion, it arrives at the restoration of hope in the form of a super weird and creepy character experiencing an epiphany. *NOTE* I'm talking about Lester (Kevin Spacey), not Ricky, even though he is also creepy and weird. I know I hit on this already, but it demands a second mention. Quite frankly Ricky is more than just strange. He's kind of a pompous tool who is largely responsible for taking the movie from profound to "come on dude, it's just a plastic bag" levels of pretentiousness. It almost makes me glad President Snow killed him at the end of The Hunger Games 13 years later.

How perfect is that role for him? When you picture Ricky 13 years later, can't you totally imagine him designing the layout of a game in which kids fight to the death? It makes perfect sense to me. He would probably think The Hunger Games are beautiful. *END OF NOTE* Anyway, back to Lester's epiphany.

Lester turned his life around, in large part, due to his pursuit of a fantasy. But when he had a chance to live that fantasy, he turned it down. That was his epiphany. His real one, not the one he thought he had after smoking weed with Ricky.

No, that night with Angela was the moment of his true breakthrough. He realizes that lusting after his daughter's friend is icky. More than that, he started to see things for what they really were. His fantasy girl was really just an innocent, vulnerable teenager. His daughter was really a special young lady he raised. His wife was really the woman he fell in love with.

Being with Angela was not what he really wanted. He had what he wanted all along. Even with his current problems, he chose his reality over his fantasy. He had a wife, a daughter, a great life. Somewhere along the way he just forgot.

I could probably ramble for another few thousand words about this movie, I better wrap things up.

American Beauty sends a worthy message about appreciating the little things in life, the ones most of us take for granted. Experiencing the movie is like swimming through gorgeous ocean water in the Caribbean. It's wonderful, you just have to navigate through the seaweed of affairs and ignore the gross oil spill doubling as a 40 year old guy fantasizing about banging a high school cheerleader.

If you can do that, you will take away something useful from this movie. And you'll have a fun time while you do it.
2016-08-18
Magnificent.
A brilliant film with deeply exploits the inner world of human, meanwhile, its as a satirical work referring to persuasive the notion of beauty and self-satisfaction of the middle class from another perspective -- what are attached to the analysis focuses on the aspects of romance, beauty, materialism, self-liberation and atonement.

More importantly, we can notice that the style of this movie is quiet, covering the slow motion with which it conjures up a sense of cringe and can make people feel-regret-for-something. (!)

The proof is the climax of dramatic minutes built in a narrow context in contrast to the noisy scenes in a wider one, provided that the genius director made many creative changes aimed in simplied the style at the same time emphasizing the transmission of the message of the movie to the viewer.

Beyond that, the film set in around the life of Lester Burnham, a middle-aged man as an staff in a magazine. If only looking at the outside, he live in a dream life ― The Joyful Family with a good wife, beautiful child's live in the suburbs.

Of singularly the reality of life always goes against the happiness of dreams, Lester feels his life is like a prison, he is always stuck by everything -- suffered much pressure from the boss who despised him coupled with contempt of his wife and incorporate the main problem: his child's give hate for him.

Change to another angle, Lester's wife is Carolyn, a real estate broker. She is like a victim of slogans and theoretical books that teach people about success -- some vain things that keeps people think getting rich is the most important thing in life. (!)

The mother live in a fake and harsh life with husband and her children, synonymous with she always hurts herself. In parallel, her daughter (Jane) is a typical teenage girl - scowl, disorientation, faith in life and hate herself. She became embarrassed and humiliated about her parents.

As usual, Burnham's family no one is cruel. They are just psychically afflicted to become selfish, and instead of finding each other to share-and-heal-one-another; they blame and torment as a way to make themselves feel-more-comfortable. We can be sure that: A tragedy in 'American Beauty' is also something that-happens-every- day-in-everyday-life.

It can't be a coincidence that many people describe it, quoted: A good movie about the "meaning of life, "gender identity" or "the hollow existence of smaller society" is akin to a classification or challenge for film critics.

Moreover, it's easy to summarize the film as 'a portrait of beauty hidden under the misery and mistakes of Americans in particular and humanity in general'; but that does lose sight of cruelty and horror, and Ball's with his morals. It was also not finalized by any of Lester or Ricky's philosophical assertions about the definition of life or how one should live.

"In fact, in this world no one is stupid or smart, but people are honest or sly".

In 'American Beauty' we can recognize: Each character has a problem, is unusual at one point or another, but their behavior is not the same.

Some of those who deny their true nature and their lifelong life are just play a role in the stage ― it's Frank Fits -- the new neighbor moved in; especially Leicester's 'Lolita' (Angela).

And the rest, some others hated themselves, ashamed of the true nature. They are losers and losers-in- the-eyes-of-society. It's difficult to imagine only a few other characters live: true to themselves. In the eyes of others, they are eccentric but also the most sober and happy because they know how to change their way or how they think to society.

In essence, the film is a mirror reflecting imprisonment and liberation. The boredom of Lester's character manifests itself through a dreary and hard workplace with casual dress. In these scenes, characters who are repressed as if they are passive, helpless before life mean that their nature can not be changed. (!)

In the long run, the movie conveyed the message that we must learn how to love ourselves, accept our own shortcomings and respect our own selves, i.e. only when we "live" with ourselves, we can feel happy and quiet in our hearts.

Notably, 'American Beauty' has two big symbols throughout the film: roses and plastic bags. At first, the roses appeared in the hands of the young ladies on the poster, the roses sprouting around the fence of Burnham's house as well as the blooming incense in the scenes when Lester dreams of Angela.

However, gardeners who know the truth about "the perfect" of rose flowers, it proving that just like Burnham's "exemplary family life" on the outside. It's just a little weird inside, and like the beautiful but empty Angela; just like how each character in the movie tries to "live differently" to overcome their fakeness and trying to deceive one's true self.

One of the biggest messages of 'American Beauty' is "...look closer". Just look closer, you will be surprised to realize that everything is not like its appearance; Another key thing to remember: The idea of ​​good is not necessarily-good, the idea of ​​bad is not necessarily- bad. Bad things often hide-behind-what-seems-perfect-and-beauty is usually found-in-the-least-suspicious-places.

In conclusion, I have to say this is one of the most impressive films I've ever seen; an outstanding script directed by a genius. My opinion, this movie has such beautiful scenes that I almost hold my breath, it seems a strong breath is enough destroy "the perfect atmosphere" of beauty on the screen. For certain, the most beautiful scenes of the film are romantic imagery of Lester about Angela. The sound of the deep, repetitive lyrics in many angles makes the scenes mesmerized, I'm tempted by abstraction and subtle emotion as if I touched the rose petals...
2017-06-10
Hilariously Interesting
American Beauty is a romantic comedy that doesn't suck, which is a nice break. It follows a man stuck in an unhealthy relationship with his wife and eventually falls in love with his 16-year-old daughter's best friend. It's an unconventional love story, and it's done beautifully.

The plot is great. It's presented in a very comedic way and it's actually very funny. It's interesting and realistic, which is a little surprising, but nothing ever felt out of place. The subplot is also very good, and while I think we've all seen it before I think that it was the more relatable and serious of both plots, which created a really nice balance of both fun and seriousness.

The characters are quite good too. You have a good idea of who they are, and they aren't horribly far-fetched either. All of them were flawed people, but not so flawed and that they were obviously fake. A lot of them, especially Kevin Spacey's character, were very likable as well.

Like I already said, the movie is very funny. But all the humor is done in a very natural way. During character conversations they might say something funny, but it's part of the conversation and further develops their character as well as furthers the conversation, so it exists as more than just a joke.

Overall American Beauty is fantastic. The plot and subplot are very good, the characters are great, and it's incredibly funny without feeling forced. In the end I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this movie, so long as you're willing to be wowed.
2016-04-06
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