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"...And in a way, I am dead already."
on 10 February 2004
"American Beauty" is a pure cinematic triumph that is both funny and sad. It's disturbing... and yet, it's extremely provocative and deep. The film is an extraordinary achievement that reveals a tragic and realistic story about a family that is anything but ordinary. It's a film with so many layers that it is almost impossible to dissect them all in one single thought.
Meet Lester Burnham; a man who feels like he's completely dead inside. His wife and daughter despise him and do not show him any signs of respect. On the surface, the family seems like a picture-perfect family that everybody dreams about--but inside is a completely different matter. His wife is obsessed with material possessions and doesn't care for "petty" things like love or life, while his daughter resents herself because she isn't "perfect." Lester's mental coma is rudely interrupted when he meets his daughter's friend and starts fantasizing about her. The awakening might be due to a disturbing thought or feeling, but the wake-up call changes Lester and allows him to realize that there's always time to erase his "forced-image" and be the person he really is. This is all a set-up for a funny, disturbing and tragic movie.
I don't know about everybody else, but my mind was literally racing around when this movie was playing before my eyes. It's one of those films that allows you to pick up on something different upon each viewing. As I said in the beginning of the review, this film has a number of layers to it. There's so many different meanings and points to the film that it is nearly impossible to describe them all in one little review. Besides, the fun part of the movie is discovering these meanings and points for yourself. You know a film is successful when you totally lose yourself to it and allow it to challenge you in every way. The film is crafted flawlessly and doesn't have a wasted minute in it.
The acting from Kevin Spacey is really a sight to see. He gives his character all of the right needs and feelings that is necessary for the authenticity of his role. You don't even look at him as an actor--but as the real person he portrays. It is certainly a milestone in his acting career that will continue to be remembered throughout all cinematic history. Annette Bening is also superb in her role and brings life to her character, as well. Everybody in the film should be applauded, as they all make the film what it is.
"American Beauty" is a breath-taking masterpiece with a very high replay value. It's a terrific film on every front and does not disappoint for a single second. While it's not a movie that everybody will like, it's most certainly one to check out if you are a lover of films. If you're looking for something that isn't so ordinary, then this may be the chance that you are seeking. I feel that it is a unique and superb film that is very hard to express in words--you'll just have to experience it for yourself. -Michael Crane