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Movie Reviews

American Beauty



Reviewer: Luke Walkley

Released: February 4th 2000 UK)

Director: Sam Mendes

Stars:Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning

Certificate: 18 (UK)

Considering that this film was a movie debut for both its Director (Sam Mendes) and writer (Alan Ball) the film was a massive hit. Winning 5 Oscars including Best Picture and Actor for Kevin Spacey, the film was a huge hit.

A dark, comedy drama following the life of Lester Burnham (Spacey) who in typical mid-life crisis style, believes he is in love with one of his teenage daughters friends, Angela.  The story unwinds as each character including Burnham’s wife (Oscar Nominated Annette Bening) starts making drastic life changing decisions. Involving blackmail, love affairs and a 1970 Pontiac Firebird.

Through using Spacey as the film’s narrator, the audience are instantly drawn into his world. Tip-toeing the line between fantasy and reality, Burnham goes about creating the life he wanted. He purchases his dream car, quits his job and begins smoking marijuana; all the while his wife is having an affair with her co-worker.

The character of Ricky Fitts causes conflict between Burnham and Fitts’ father and ex-marine and it’s the later exchanges that create the film that we see, something different and new. The uniqueness of American Beauty is that divide between real-life and fantasy. One of the most well known scenes from the movie is Ricky’s video of a plastic bag being carried by the wind, which he describes as ‘the most beautiful thing he has ever seen’

The films black comedy moments are truly brilliant, the film is full of hilarious back and forth’s between Burnham and his fellow characters. This also lets me mention one of the best movie opening quotes (in my opinion anyway…) from Burnham:

‘My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighbourhood; this is my street; this is my life. I am 42 years old; in less than a year I will be dead.’

The film is full of moments worthy of the praise it received. The writing is pure genius in parts and the film contains some fantastic scenes and quotes.

I promise not to make a habit of this but I will end partly with a quote from the film:

‘It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you’ve forgotten about’

So settle down to watch American Beauty and I know, rather than hope that you will be pleasantly surprised by the film that you may have forgotten about.

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