American Beauty (1999) Review

… look closer

5 Oscars: Best Picture. Best Actor Kevin Spacey. Best Director Sam Mendes. Best Original Screenplay. Best Cinematography.

Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is a depressed suburban father who is suffering from a mid-life crisis. His wife Carolyn (Annette Benning) can’t stand him and his daughter Jane (Thora Birch) thinks he is a loser. Lester begins to have an infatuation with Angela (Mena Survai), Jane’s friend. This causes Jane to “hate” her father even more.

Throughout the entire movie you must remember the tag line of “look closer” as nearly every incident or event which occurs in the movie really does require you to look closer as things are not always what they seem at a first glance. It helps to highlight why you should not just assume things to be at face value or what you expect them to be. Everyone can look perfect, but they never really are. Take Angela who always talks about sex and men and how experienced she is, however that is all far from the truth which Lester soon finds out when he gets the chance to live his fantasy.

I must admit that the first time I watched this movie, I really had know idea what had just went on and thought it was just all very random. But now I have watched it loads of times and appreciate more and more on each viewing. I think the first time I watched it, I wasn’t really sure to laugh or not at some parts.

Whenever I see a plastic bag floating around in the wind, I immediately think of the scene in which Ricky shows Jane “the most beautiful thing he has filmed” and that their is so much beauty in the world that at times he can hardly stand it. This scene is probably the most heartfelt in the movie. The dinner scene of the family sitting down together, and Lester then proceeding to totally lose it was brilliantly done in a way to show that this family is far from normal and has its problems.

Col. Frank Fitts (Colin Cooper) is Ricky’s father and still very much lives like he is still in the army in the manner in which he speaks to Ricky and even beats him up in one scene to teach him manners and discipline. Again the whole look closer tagline is focused on Frank as an unsuspected turn occurs near the end of the movie (which I will not spoil).

This movie is a perfect example of people acting and speaking according to how they should be perceived by others (and maybe how they would like to be perceived). Showing how people conform to society and act in a way which is acceptable. I guess the first time (or few times) I watch this movie I really didn’t look closer and see how brilliant this whole movie is. But also in the end it is clear that this family does love one another even though they would not and did not show it at all. You can love someone so much that you begin to hate them at the same time, this is quite an achievement but I suppose it is very real and how things happen in reality.

On the awards front, it really did deserve the awards it won and probably deserved the awards it didn’t win as well. Annette Benning was rather unlucky that she was up against Hilary Swank who won for her role in “Boys Don’t Cry” which must have been such a close call to who took home the best actress Oscar. Colin Cooper was incredible and I was suprised to see he did not get a nomination for his performance in this movie. This movie is really a must see, but remember . . . LOOK CLOSER !!!


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