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picture from American Beauty 8 out of 108 out of 108 out of 108 out of 108 out of 10
Rated: R
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Current Voter Rating: 8.211 (237 votes)
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Let me start off by stating that this review has thus far given me great trouble. It is difficult indeed to capture into words this multiheaded beast. Not difficult because I find it hard to bring forth accolades or champion this film as a great one, because, in my opinion, it is not. In fact, I find it rather ordinary. It is strange indeed that this is the word that I have so long labored over to describe American Beauty, for two reasons. First of all, it seems at first inappropriate. For in fact, this movie is at first glance very different and unordinary indeed. Furthermore, and for those of you counting along this is the number two reason (ah ah ahhhh... -- for an insight into my humor, see The Count in The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland), the description of this movie as ordinary is ironic.

Ironic because this is exactly how the movie's "hero", Lester Burhnam (Kevin Spacey), describes himself: ordinary. Lester is however troubled by this notion and finally decides to do something about it, as he goes through a mid-life crisis. However, we are all connected in the web of life, I suppose; thus as he breaks out of his "rut", he drags several others with him (enter the rest of the cast). Along the way, there is a wealth of humor tempered by an equally sizeable amount of what I could only describe as shock or oddities.

picture from American Beauty

Looking back now, I can see what the makers (writer Alan Ball and director Sam Mendes) of American Beauty set out to do (and perhaps it should be obvious from the title). They wanted to create a farce of American society; in particular, of a few character types seen within our communities. They also wanted to attack some of the rules and ideals by which we, perhaps blindly, live. In addition, I believe that they wanted to point out our fears and primal urges. And to wrap it all up, they wanted to teach us their moral, which I have put into my own words as: The more you think for yourself and the less you try to fit in and/or the less you are held captive by either others or your own fears and impulses, then the better off you will be and the more satisfying will be your life.

A noble cause, to be sure. And a somewhat ignoble appearance.

On simpler terms, I also see how this film was an attempt to let us vicariously experience a man do all of the things which a forty-something-year-old man wants to do, but shouldn't, can't, or won't. (Personally, I have a problem with a couple of them, but we all get the idea.)

However, in the end I believe that the movie itself only partially succeeds. Perhaps it is the complication of the theme. Perhaps it is the oversimplification and stereotypical nature of the characters (I felt like I was watching a movie the whole time, instead of being absorped into it). Or perhaps it is the failed attempt at mystery which bestow upon this film my lone descriptive word: ordinary. I get the overwhelming sense of a project rushed to completion before its time, which happens all too often in our lives, be it school or the workplace. So perhaps it is fitting, being a movie poking fun at our American society, that it be so obvious that it is a product of our society.

To this movie's credit however, is its wonderful cast. Kevin Spacey was superb as our tragic hero. It was almost eerie, too, how I was able to identify with him even though his character thought and did many things that I fundamentally could not. I was also quite impressed with Annette Bening as Lester's success-driven wife. And Mena Suvari, as the tender object of Lester's affection and the impetus for his recklessness, was great as well, not only in beauty, but in her immaturity and her representation of a cliquish slut.

thumbs up!I do recommend this movie. It will expand your filmographic domain, so to speak. Also, it's pretty funny.

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So far, the average rating for American Beauty is: 8.211 (237 votes)

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