Quick recap: Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey, starts a midlife crisis when he finds himself attracted to his daughter’s teenage friend. I suppose I should introduce the main characters but instead I’ll just summarize that everyone is messed up. Everyone. Especially that stupid plastic bag.
Fun (?) fact: Thora Birch, who played Jane, was only 17 at the time of filming so her parents had to watch and approve her nude scene.
My thoughts: I’m just going to cut to the chase for once and admit that I have no idea how I feel about this film. I usually try to write a review after I have had time to sort through my thoughts, but in this case, I don’t think another day would’ve helped. After 79 posts, I finally have to answer ‘what makes for a good movie?’
I really did enjoy American Beauty. At no point did I feel bored or wish for the ending to hurry up. In a way, the movie was like one long episode of Desperate Housewives, except much darker. When I attempt to break down the movie into different parts, I find that I was most impressed by the acting. Every single performance was flawless and I’ll even go out on a limb to say that it is one of the best examples of a strong ensemble cast. And to add to that, Kevin Spacey gives one of the best performances as Lester Burnham I have seen since starting this project. He lived that role.
Now, as for the confusion- If I were to just qualify this movie by its acting, it would get a near perfect score from me. But director Sam Mendes was going for so much more than that, and this is the part where it starts to unravel. After the movie finished, I sat for the longest time and tried to put my finger on the main theme. Was it sexuality? the evils of suburbia? teen angst? imprisonment? I couldn’t figure it out. I finally threw my hands up in the air and went to the Wikipedia page, where SURPRISE, no one else knows either. Not even the director. So, now I’m stuck with the question, does a movie have to have one theme? Can a movie still be good if it doesn’t resonate? I didn’t give much thought to American Beauty today, except if a particular scene popped in my head. In the end, I think this is just going to be one of those films I enjoyed and would recommend to others, although I don’t know why. I think Mendes was going for something profound, but couldn’t decide on what he wanted, so he just threw in everything. I wouldn’t call this movie ‘overrated’, like some have, but I do think it is best enjoyed at a surface level. Any deeper and we get into Pretentious Territory.
Up next: Shane