American Beauty

American Beauty

4.3 56
Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch

     
 

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Noted theater director Sam Mendes, who was responsible for the acclaimed 1998 revival of Cabaret and Nicole Kidman's turn in The Blue Room, made his motion picture debut with this film about the dark side of an American family, and about the nature and price of beauty in a culture obsessed with outward appearances. Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man in his… See more details below

Overview

Noted theater director Sam Mendes, who was responsible for the acclaimed 1998 revival of Cabaret and Nicole Kidman's turn in The Blue Room, made his motion picture debut with this film about the dark side of an American family, and about the nature and price of beauty in a culture obsessed with outward appearances. Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man in his mid-40s going through an intense midlife crisis; he's grown cynical and is convinced that he has no reason to go on. Lester's relationship with his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) is not a warm one; while on the surface Carolyn strives to present the image that she's in full control of her life, inside she feels empty and desperate. Their teenage daughter Jane (Thora Birch) is constantly depressed, lacking in self-esteem, and convinced that she's unattractive. Her problems aren't helped by her best friend Angela (Mena Suvari), an aspiring model who is quite beautiful and believes that that alone makes her a worthwhile person. Jane isn't the only one who has noticed that Angela is attractive: Lester has fallen into uncontrollable lust for her, and she becomes part of his drastic plan to change his body and change his life. Meanwhile, next door, Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper) has spent a lifetime in the Marine Corps and can understand and tolerate no other way of life, which makes life difficult for his son Ricky (Wes Bentley), an aspiring filmmaker and part-time drug dealer who is obsessed with beauty, wherever and whatever it may be. American Beauty was also the screen debut for screenwriter Alan Ball.

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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:
01/01/2013
UPC:
0883929301782
Original Release:
1999
Source:
Paramount Catalog
Sales rank:
12,483

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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