American Beauty (1999)

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper, Wes Bentley

Directed by: Sam Mendes

R. 120mins.

This is an American classic and contains one of Kevin Spacey’s best performances in an already impressive resume. Perfectly cast and intelligently written, American Beauty holds a giant mirror up to the audience. Mendes crafts a hilarious and heart wrenching film that accurately portrays the darker side of suburban life. Most teenagers think their parents are strange, but, in the case of Jane Burnham (Thora Birch), this is as much a state of mind as it is an unfortunate reality. Her father, Lester (Kevin Spacey), is suffering through a mid-life crisis. Meanwhile, Jane’s mother, Carolyn (Annette Bening), places such value on status that she has no time for any form of intimacy. Stuck in a terrible marriage for the sake of their child, the Burnhams appear to be perfectly normal on the outside, but the audience quickly discovers how odd they really are. Soon, Lester has an epiphany and his outlook on life is completely restructured. This is a character-driven dark comedy that both challenges and entertains the audience. Paired with Thomas Newman’s haunting score, American Beauty is just short of masterpiece – * * * * 1/2

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