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American Beauty [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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From its first gliding aerial shot of a generic suburban street, American Beauty moves with a mesmerising confidence and acuity epitomised 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 neighbour (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 stylised pace without lapsing into transparent self-indulgence. Mendes has shrewdly insured his success with a solid crew of stage veterans, yet he has 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 colour of roses--and of blood. --Sam Sutherland --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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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.Read more ›
American Beauty is the amazing directorial debut of theater man Sam Mendes. Penned by TV writer Alan Ball, the script may feel like a sitcomish satire of suburban hell at first, but beyond the laughs lurks a fascinating exploration of people trying to convince themselves they're not as miserable as they really are. It's also somehow a tragedy, as we're told right off that fatality will strike. Mendes makes great use of the possibilities of cinema. His film is always interesting and inventive visually, in an almost impressionistic way. Among other things, he makes very interesting use of American beauties, a variety of red roses that the wife cultivates and which Lester links to his fantasies. I also love the score by Thomas Newman, who should have one an Oscar, and the cast is as good as it gets. Annette Bening is convincing as always as an apparently successful career woman whose facade is shattering, and like Peter Gallagher's, her character is a bit caricatural but still effective. Thora Birch is perfect as her confused daughter, and so is Mena Suvari as her babe girlfriend. Suvari (who was one of the best things in American Pie) is highly desirable at first, then she starts talking and gets obnoxious, but eventually you get to really know her character and she's just another sad kid. This is a surprising performance and so is the one delivered by Wes Bentley, who's got solid screen presence and charisma as Ricky.Read more ›
Its amazing how a film can use the most basic and simple situation and create magic from it. No Star Wars massive CGI effects or bombastic Lord of the Rings stuff. This movie is about real people and the issues we all face everyday. Keeping up the social smiling mask and being a good dog and waggin our tail as we get increasingly uptight. This movie was stunning for me. Not usually the sort of thing i go for. But i'm so glad some friends dragged me along to watch it. There is a scene where the guy nextdoor is showing Spacey's daughter a home video he took of a plastic bag blowing around in the wind. This scene is heart melting. "Sometimes i see so much beauty in the world..i feel i cant take it.." gasps the teenager. Oh my god, i nearly started crying when he said that. You may think this film is an american typical comedy. But its infact a mystical/philosophical journey of modern life and its stupid masks we all wear because we feel we are supposed to. Comedy, fear, arguments, serious issues of abuse, and everything else you can imagine. A must see. Buy it now.
Anchored by Kevin Spacey's gleefully sarcastic performance as well as, the superb ensemble cast of adults and teens we get navigated through the myriad dysfunctions with wit and flashes of tragedy.
I think all the characters in this film are constantly on a search for exquisiteness in the mundane, whether in rose petal-strewn dreams or grainy images of a dancing bag, the wonderful direction lets the audience see what the characters are seeing and feeling.
Just by the amount of parodies that have been made over the years, you can gauge the status of this film, its an icon! I really can't find any faults with American Beauty at all. Sensitive direction, amazing script, spot on acting from all the cast and the music and cinematography only work to complement the insightful compassionate feel of this movie. A must see film.