American Beauty

American Beauty

4.3 56
Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch

     
 

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Sam Mendes' multi-award-winning movie has become a superb DVD, with upwards of six hours of good viewing for anyone who cares to look beyond the movie itself. The bonus materials run almost twice as long as the feature itself, and give a massive amount of value. The movie elicited all kinds of profound analyses from writers who feel most secure when they're showing… See more details below

Overview

Sam Mendes' multi-award-winning movie has become a superb DVD, with upwards of six hours of good viewing for anyone who cares to look beyond the movie itself. The bonus materials run almost twice as long as the feature itself, and give a massive amount of value. The movie elicited all kinds of profound analyses from writers who feel most secure when they're showing off how many big words they know -- in fact, it's well crafted and acted, and beautifully shot by Conrad Hall. This is one of the most beautifully transferred movies to show up yet on DVD, and shows signs of having been painstakingly mastered to the most minute specification. There's not a shot here that isn't a delight to the eye, and the audio is its match, a mix of very carefully mastered realistic onscreen sound coupled with a lyrical score by Thomas Newman. The film is broken up into 28 chapters that break the movie up handily, all accessible through a multi-layered menu. The disc offers a choice of DTS or Dolby 5.1 before a single frame has run, and then the menu set-up pops up. The most rewarding of the special features is the audio commentary track by director Sam Mendes and writer Alan Ball -- Mendes has a good enough sense of history to acknowledge Sunset Boulevard as part of his inspiration for the film, and he freely acknowledges making major modifications in the content and structure of the movie and the story right up through the final edit. The discussion would be a good jumping-off point for any would-be filmmaker at the high school or college level, and more than a few professionals could learn a thing or two from the director's free-ranging narrative. Alan Ball doesn't do much more than amplify what Mendes is saying most of the time, but his little interjections add enough variety to keep Mendes' remarks from ever even seeming monotonous (which they're not). The 21-minute "American Beauty: Look Closer . . ." incorporates much of the same information contained within the commentary track in a more superficial manner, intercut with remarks by Ball and the various actors. Much more rewarding on its own terms is the hour-long "Storyboard Presentation," in which each sketch is presented with the resulting shot and all are accompanied by Mendes and cinematographer Conrad Hall. In the midst of all of this bonus material, the inclusion of the two trailers seems like an afterthought. The "Cast & Crew" material is an onscreen version of the kind of raw publicity copy that used to go exclusively to editors and feature writers -- it's difficult to imagine too many fans of the movie taking the time to go through it all, especially as it's the only part of the supplement that is awkward to manipulate and the most overtly self-serving in its content.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Monica McIntyre
Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a middle-aged, middle-American everyman, is in midlife burnout. When he lusts for his daughter's seductive friend, he plunges into a regression that changes his life. Sam Mendes's sardonic look at the dysfunctional underside of suburban bliss, American Beauty, tore through the Academy Awards in 2000, winning five trophies, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay. In a standout cast that includes Annette Bening and Chris Cooper, Spacey is especially moving: Normally an intelligent but distant actor, his Lester is in dead earnest as he whips himself up into a new man while his marriage crumbles. Bening brings sympathy to her role as Lester's tightly wound wife, a struggling realtor. Exhibiting a startling amount of directorial acumen for a debut feature, Mendes -- a theatre veteran -- gives us a fresh, suspenseful, and entertaining take on an old subject: suburban ennui And while elements of the tale here may echo movies as disparate as Blue Velvet and Heathers, the expressionististic cinematography, beguiling score, and unblinking script add to the rare level of excellence and charm. The DVD includes commentary from Mendes and writer Alan Ball and American Beauty: Look Closer, a making-of documentary short.
All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
A darkly comic critique of suburban stupor with a measured touch of redemption, American Beauty became the most laureled film of 1999. As written by Alan Ball and directed by theatre wunderkind/film neophyte Sam Mendes, the tale of Lester Burnham's final year of life keenly delves into the repressed desires, rampant materialism, skewed values, and gnawing insecurities lurking behind the crisply manicured lawns and meticulously decorated houses lining Any Street, USA. Anchored by Kevin Spacey's gleefully sardonic yet sensitively attuned performance as doomed "seeker" Lester, the superb ensemble cast of adults and teens (including Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Chris Cooper and newcomers Wes Bentley and Mena Suvari) navigate the myriad dysfunctions with wit and flashes of pathos. Complementing the voiced desire for some kind of escape, Lester's and video voyeur Ricky Fitts' search for beauty in the mundane, whether in rose petal-strewn dreams or grainy images of a dancing bag, is given luminous life by veteran cinematographer Conrad L. Hall. Despite the complaint from a few critics that it did not truly "look closer" at the terrain previously covered by The Ice Storm (1997), Happiness (1998), and Blue Velvet (1986), American Beauty garnered several critics' circle prizes and a fistful of Golden Globes on the way to winning the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Cinematography.

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/24/2000
UPC:
0667068538229
Original Release:
1999
Rating:
R
Source:
Dreamworks Video
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound, Dolby Digital Surround]
Time:
2:02:00

Special Features

"American Beauty: Look Closer...": Behind-the-scenes featurette; Film commentary with director Sam Mendes and writer Alan Ball; Storyboard presentation with commentary by Sam Mendes and director of photography Conrad L. Hall; Digital screenplay with corresponding film footage and storyboards; Cast and crew biographies; Two theatrical trailers; Production notes

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kevin Spacey Lester Burnham
Annette Bening Caroline Burnham
Thora Birch Jane Burnham
Wes Bentley Ricky Fitts
Mena Suvari Angela Hayes
Chris Cooper Colonel Fitts
Peter Gallagher Buddy Kane
Allison Janney Barbara Fitts
Scott Bakula Jim Olmeyer
Sam Robards Jim Berkley
Marissa Jaret Winokur Actor

Technical Credits
Sam Mendes Director
Tony Adler Asst. Director
Tariq Anwar Editor
Alan Ball Co-producer,Screenwriter
Jan K. Bergstrom Set Decoration/Design
Bruce Cohen Producer
E. Carey Dietrich Asst. Director
Chris Douridas Musical Direction/Supervision
Scott Martin Gershin Sound Editor
Christopher Greenbury Editor
Conrad L. Hall Cinematographer
Dan Jinks Producer
David S. Lazan Art Director
Thomas Newman Score Composer
Naomi Shohan Production Designer
Richard van Dyke Sound/Sound Designer
Julie Weiss Costumes/Costume Designer
Stan Wlodkowski Co-producer
Debra Zane Casting

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Scene Index

Scene Index
0. Scene Index
1. The High Point of My Day (Main Title) [4:23]
2. Job Description [5:54]
3. I Will Sell This House Today [3:32]
4. The Gym [5:12]
5. Spectacular [4:46]
6. Welcome to the Neighborhood [2:36]
7. I'm Just Curious [3:32]
8. My Personal Hero [5:49]
9. I Love Root Beer [4:02]
10. America's Weirdest Home Videos [2:37]
11. Choking the Bishop [3:40]
12. I Want to Look Good Naked [3:53]
13. Mom's Mad [1:20]
14. An Ordinary Guy with Nothing to Lose [4:05]
15. The Royal Treatment [4:18]
16. The Most Beautiful Thing [5:12]
17. Pass the Asparagus [4:14]
18. Don't Give Up on Me Dad [4:10]
19. Mr. Smarty Man [:01]
20. Massive Psycholoical Damage [4:20]
21. The Day You Die [5:33]
22. Smile, You're at Mr. Smiley's [3:30]
23. You Like Muscles? [5:46]
24. Our Marriage is Just for Show [6:02]
25. You Couldn't Be Ordinary If You Tried [3:44]
26. I'm Great [6:18]
27. My Stupid Little Life [3:04]
28. End Credits [4:07]

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