American Beauty

( 55 )

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 ...
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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: 1/1/2013
  • UPC: 883929301782
  • Original Release: 1999
  • Source: Paramount Catalog
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 8,716

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
Technical Credits
Sam Mendes Director
Tony Adler Asst. Director
Tariq Anwar Editor
Alan Ball Co-producer, 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, Producer
Debra Zane Casting
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 55 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(36)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 55 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    loved it

    best movie i've ever seen...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Simply Stunning

    When I first heard about this movie I had no desire to see it. Then on a rainy Sunday, bored out of my mind, I flipped onto HBO and saw that it was coming on next. So I decided to give it a chance since it won best picture. After watching those 2 hours of the movie, I was in a shock, as if I'd seen a ghost. This movie was stunningly beautiful, dramatic, and funny. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening were perfct together. Bening deserved and oscar for her part since she didn't win. This movie changed my life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Simply Beautiful

    American Beauty is a spectacular movie of hope and life that has captured the hearts of so many people. Sam Mendes, the director, and Alan Ball, the screenwriter, both succeed in displaying the lonely life of Lester Burnham, a middle-aged man who takes a closer look at the world he lives in, and progresses on a journey to get his life back. The beginning tone of the movie is dull and uninspiring as Lester Burnham embarks on another boring day. He is seen as a prisoner looking out onto a world of beauty, a world that he once knew. He seems to be trapped behind bars everywhere he goes. Sam Mendes was born in Reading, England in 1965. American Beauty was his first feature film in 1999 and it won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. He is now happily married to actress Kate Winslet. They have one child. In the beginning of the movie during Lester’s monologue, the audience finds out he is going to die, but at this point he seems already dead. His life is lonely and he has a low and tense relationship with his wife and daughter. Every aspect of this broken family is distant and isolated. Colors are dark and dull except for the red roses that so regularly appear throughout the course of the movie. The roses in the movie represent fantasy and life. The life of a rose depicts the direction of the movie and also the life of Lester. A rose begins as only a seed, waiting to be nurtured and cared for. It then transforms into a bud after it has grown and grown, and is only seconds away from blooming into the next phase – the American beauty. After the rose has had its beauty, it dies, satisfied and fulfilled because not only did it live, it lived a life of beauty. Throughout the course of the movie and the introduction of all the characters, one specific character stands out more than any. Ricky, a teenage kid and the Burnham’s new neighbor, brings light and beauty to the suburban family. He influences every character, directly and/or indirectly, and shows them how beautiful life really is. Lester begins to break free from his life of imprisonment and manages to live life without a care in the world. At one point Lester states, “I’m just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose.” This movie illustrates that there are always preconceived notions about people and life, but in reality, there is usually a lot more going on. People are always searching for meaning in their lives, and Lester Burnham finds that meaning… that beauty. American Beauty is a movie that will surely touch the lives of anyone who should watch it. It is a film that can be viewed by both young and old and never cease to send a beautiful message.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    American Hype

    Besides the hype of this movie, there's nothing besides a middle-aged Middle American bored with his life and his marriage is falling apart while he finally wakes from this doldrum and lusts after his daughter's friend. Meanwhile, his wife is having an affair with a real estate because she is sexually frustrated (as is her husband), and they don't talk to much. The daughter is dating a pot dealer who seems to have a thing for a video cameras peering into neighbors houses. Remember the nude scene! Anyway, everybody is leading a secret life of pain and beauty seeking the "benevolent spirit", as our dope peddler calls it. Also his dad is an ex-Marine with a thing against "fags" while he is actually in the closet. And, in the end, he yearns for the company of Kevin Spacey and Kevin Spacey doesn't which gets him killed. Pretty much it. Pleasure and pain and the discontents of suburbia with an overrated acting job.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Simply Tremendous

    This is a great movie that reaches all aspects of life and shows how life can reach its depths. It deals with the distance caused by a cold wife, lack of communication between parents and children, and total lack of care to what happens with oneself. It masters it all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Garbage

    Only Hollywood would make a picture like this, and only Hollywood could give it five Oscars. It's hard to know where to begin. The acting, except for Kevin Spacey, is pathetic. The storyline possibly had promise, but was ruined by the injection of Hollywood stereotypes - for example, the ex-Marine just HAD to be a homophobe and a Nazi-lover. Almost everything about this film rings false (the exception being its portrayal of real estate agents). Instead of being a sendup of contemporary suburbia, it's an unintentional revelation of just how out of touch Hollywood has become.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Winner!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is the most touching, heartwarming, beautful movie ever! Best picture of '99 for sure! All the charactors are relatable: Lester, the sad man who feels he had no life, the daughter, who longs to be normal, the wife who has no love, the neighboor boy who needs to show how he feels from the world with only a video tape. This flim isn't gross or preverted. It captivates what real men feel like when their in a rut at times. You ever thinks this flim is disturbing then just think for a second... look closer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    The worst Best Picture Oscar winner.

    I'm sorry for the people who love this film, but I hate this movie with a passion. I think that it glorifies all the bad things that can happen in real life, like teen sex/porn. Some of the acting was terrible, particularly Annette Bening. This movie is also blatantly misogynistic, since the female characters are poor role models and the actresses are given shrill and pathetic characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    True Beauty

    It was so touching. And I completely relate to it. I love this movie now and I always will.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    If I could give this movie ten stars, I would.

    This movie changed the way I look at movies. I have always liked quality films and a badly made movie is the worst waste of time anyone could ever endure. I borrowed this movie from my friend about two or three years ago and immediately loved it. I knew then that Kevin Spacey was the best actor to ever live and have followed his career ever since. Sam Mendes and Alan Ball have put together a wonderful film about the nature of beauty itself and I appreciate them giving me the chance to see it. Thank You, your film is amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    good film

    I thought that this film was really good. I was able to sympathize with Keven Spacys character, Lester. However, I do think that there is one other director who could have done a better job than Sam Mendes and that is Ang Lee. I saw his film ''The Ice Strom'' And could really compare it to ''American Beauty''. If Ang Lee could make an American drama like ''The Ice Storm'', then he could have directed ''American Beauty''

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Whoa!

    Disgusting, distrubing...pointless. That is how I would describe this movie. It was horrible and I wish I had never seen it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    The most depressing movie I've ever seen

    Where was the entertainment value here? A man, in an emotionally violent midlife crisis, finally decides, that while his life is totally screwed up and his marriage is in the trash heap, he finds that he accepts this, and, well, life goes on. So what! He's happy. Till everything he came to accept is splattered all over the kitchen wall. And Scott Bakula plays a gay guy! How depressing can you get! If you're a little blue, and looking for a little pick-me-up delightful entertaining movie...steer clear of this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    What most people don't see in this film

    The movie American Beauty, unlike the review from this site, is not about the underside of suburban life. American Beauty is a wonderful film that speaks about true beauty. It speaks about true happiness. This film is tied around the theological statement that God is beauty. The middle of the film states this very clearly when the conversation about beauty takes place. Also, it is centered around the theological statement that all desire comes from God and all desire is for God, even hunger, but is misinterpreted by us as humans. The desire for success, youth, order/discipline, attention, are all false desires that bring in the end no happiness at all. In fact, in the end what brings happiness is that which was always there, but often forgotten. This was a wonderful movie that needs to be watched more than once to really get everything out of it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    THE FIFTH BEST MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEN

    American Beauty is a near perfect. My only complaint is a little too much unnecessary use of the f-word. This movie astounded me. I had two new favorite actors after seeing them in these roles: Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. They both deliver some of the best performances I've seen. (Especially Spacey) The screenplay was one of if not the best original screenplay I've come across, so is the cinematography done by the fantastic Conrad L. Hall, and outstanding direction by Sam Mendes. (Some of the best I've seen.) This movie is the kind that you keep playing seens over in your head after you've seen it. What would make this a perfect movie for me would be that there is a little too much use of the f-word that makes me feel uncomfortable. But, it's still #5 on my list.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Impure Awakenings

    ''This is my neighbourhood, this is my street, this is my life, I'm 42 years old, and in less than a year I'll be dead. In a way, I'm already dead.'' This doesn¿t exactly make for the start of a feel good movie, as we are told this in almost the first moments of the film. So where does the film go from here? In the flashback that follows Lester takes us on a guided tour of his awful life - a life, ironically, that he's worked long and hard to achieve. Here we watch the story of a man that like a lot of men who started out having certain ideas about the kind of life they wanted, has somewhere along the way lost himself and his dreams. His life is going nowhere; he¿s nothing to look forward to and ultimately nothing to live for. The love and meaning in his life have slipped away, and there is no consolation or satisfaction in the things he does have - financial security, a nice house, ¿ The American Dream. These things are no longer important because he is now a man who fears growing older, losing the hope of true love and loosing the respect of those who he loves the most. So what happens next? Angela happens, his daughter¿s flirtatious teenage friend. She makes him remember how he used to feel and remember the things he used to want. In this he suddenly realizes the lack of honesty in his life in that he does not say what he actually feels and does not do what he actually wants to do. These feelings have always been there but until Angela came along they have long been dormant, she has reawakened them. Lester now begins to dream again. Angela is his dream. His thoughts of her may be a little impure, but they are not perverted. She is merely the most beautiful woman he has ever seen and a metaphor for what he desires ¿ his youth, excitement, sexual fulfilment. Angela may not be the ultimate answer to Lester¿s problems but she is at least a temporary channel for his freedom for it is his thoughts that break him free from his years of emotional paralysis. In this it is not really about his relationship with Angela, but what Angela prompts in Lester. She stirs up something that has long been dead in his life. Lester now becomes reckless, foolish, wild, everything he was not at the beginning of the movie. It is with Joy that he announces to his wife at the dinner table, ''I quit my job, told my boss to - - - - himself and blackmailed him for $60,000.'' Lester knows that in doing this he is ruining his future security for a few flashes of freedom, but he chooses to do it anyway. He chooses to do it because the future years represent an empty and mundane life. In his mind, he may be loosing everything but he's no longer a loser because he¿s happy. His search for freedom is closely linked with his yearning for youth and the things that come with youth ¿ respect, freedom, beauty, and most of all, dreams - some people say that the moment a man stops dreaming, he begins to fade away. The first thing Lester spends his $60,000 is on a bright red 1970 Pontiac Firebird, the ultimate American symbol of freedom, beauty, dreams, and youth. In doing what he is doing, he is not going through a mid-life crisis, but rather a rebirth. He has realised how precious life is as a result of Angela, and it is this realisation and remembrance of joy that has caused him to realise the pain of how he was living. In his mind, the so-called American Dream (middle class suburbia) was really an ugly American Nightmare. This is the greatest film I have seen in a long time and could not stop thinking about it for days after. It says a lot, and if you¿re prepared to listen it can be quite enlightening about your own life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Caution!

    Don't be fooled like I was! This movie starts out in a light-hearted tone, introducing you to an ''average'' if somewhat quirky suburban family. Your mind will say to itself ''This is clearly a comedy, relax and prepare to be amused.'' However, the twists and turns of the story slowly (so slowly you won't even notice) become darker and darker. By the time the movie was half over, I found myself squriming in my seat, as each event snowballed with greater and greater emotional impact. Hang on!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Subtle, dark, and satisfying.

    Hollywood has always gone out of the way to portray life in the big city, or on the countryside, but the suburban lifestyle remained to be explored in greater detail. ''American Beauty,'' a script written by Alan Ball, would become the most praised film of 1999, exploring the ups and downs of suburbia through the eyes of one man. As boasted in the movie trailers, ''American Beauty'' proves that a comedy can be serious, and a drama can be humorous. The film contains a large cargo of controversial issues, from drug use and dysfunctional families to homosexuality and sexual relationships that span two different age groups. In a time period where so many people are too timid to discuss these issues it is refreshing to see that a movie which is widely available to the general public is carrying all of these issues among its lines of dialogue and sweeping camera shots. Director Sam Mendes keeps the movie going at its own unique pace, bringing the characters to life with a top-notch cast and a superb crew. Kevin Spacey is the ever-drab Lester Burnham, a typical suburban male who leads a monotonous, routine lifestyle with his domineering, real-estate wife Carolyn, and his emotionally-distanced daughter Jane. A typical day at work and a family dinner are among the many aspects of life shown through Lester's eyes. When Carolyn and Lester attend Jane's cheerleading performance at a school basketball game, Lester is suddenly thrown into a world of sexual fantasy when he lays eyes on his daughter's friend, Angela Hayes. This begins his descent/ascent, and is soon working out to build up his body for his new love and smoking joints he gets from his teenage next door neighbor. He quits his job, blackmails his old boss, and begins working as a short-order cook at a fast-food restaurant. This is perhaps one of the most controversial films ever. But, it is also one of the most hauntingly realistic and powerful movies that has ever moved audiences to feel such emotion for life and connection to the characters it portrays. Each scene has its own way of making us believe in the emotions that Lester is experiencing, and very soon, we are in his world, going through the life that he is living, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, and sometimes bewildered by his actions. To be able to feel that deep a connection is the mark of a truly great film. Kevin Spacey makes the most unbelievable character in history, bringing such hilarity and laughter to the screen, while at the same time making sure the audience knows that his character is being totally serious and sincere in his actions, and not doing it for mere attention. Annette Bening is wonderful in her role as Carolyn, who is the strong yet very fragile wife of Lester. She has a wonderful knack for showing her emotion, whether it be happy or sad, at all times of filming. The teenage actors, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari and Wes Bentley, are superbly rendered here, making the teenage aspect of the story realistic and memorable. The film has a great deal to offer for all age groups who watch it. It deals with real-life issues in a reality-based setting, with characters who can easily parallel people in real life. It is no wonder that the film received the awards it did; it is a truly remarkable masterpiece that will be remembered by all for years to come.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    SHE'S ALL THAT,HUNTED HILL,AND HOLLOW MAN

    THESES MOVIE'S IS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Awesome Movie

    American Beauty is a must see! It is very deep and humorous. The humorous look at suburbia is great. Kevin Spacey was awesome. I dont want to reveal too much about the plot, but the issue of homosexuality in the family environment of suburbia is very strong and powerful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 55 Customer Reviews