American Beauty (1999) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: Lester and Carolyn Burnham are on the outside, a perfect husband and wife, in a perfect house, in a perfect neighborhood. But inside, Lester is slipping deeper and deeper into a hopeless depression. He finally snaps when he becomes infatuated with one of his daughter's friends. Meanwhile, his daughter Jane is developing a happy friendship with a shy boy-next-door named Ricky, who lives with a homophobic father. Runtime: 122 mins Release Date: 30 Sep 1999
Entertaining and Thought-Provoking. (by the-evil-cult)
Of the 250+ films I've seen and rated on IMDb, only one other Schindler's List is as good as American Beauty. A film like this not only entertains while you're in the theater but also drops subtle questions in your head about the nature of human behavior and the gulf between fantasy and reality. After watching this movie, viewers will think long and hard about their own lives as well as the lives of people around them. The movie spells out the social disillusionment phenomenon everyone experiences but can't really grasp.American Beauty reminds us that, like Lester, we really <more>
have no idea what we really want. We're not rational creatures as economists assume we are. Our instinct might lead us to perform one action, yet our brains might tell us to perform the complete opposite. We may lust after material belongings, yet how do we know we will still treasure those material belongings once we obtain them? Lester may lust after Angela, yet once he feels her in his hands and finds out the truth about her sexuality, an entirely different feeling comes over him.Ricky Fits, the drug-dealing boy next door, is able to look beyond conventional notions of attractiveness and find beauty in non-promiscuous, solemn girls as well as in plastic bags floating in the wind. When many criticize the movie, they say, "Where's the beauty in a plastic bag?" And that's the point. We live in a world of aesthetic subjectivism. What one person finds attractive, another may find repulsive, yet the urge is there for people to assume aesthetic absolutism. "It's just a plastic bag! How can there be beauty in it?" Well, a human being is just an aggregation of tissues, bones, and blood. How is that attractive? It depends on how you look at it. Reality is shaped by perspective.Some people criticize the Ricky Fits character because he records his life experiences on tape and doesn't actually experience them. But time moves inexorably in one direction. Time cannot be stopped. In a physical sense the past and the future don't exist. We are only conscious in the present. Everything we do, everything we achieve, every bit of happiness we experience -- they are all eventually buried in the past by time. Recording subjective beauty is a means by which one can attempt to salvage beauty from the past into the present because time eventually destroys all beauty. If you don't believe me, walk into a pre-school and then walk into a nursing home. Remember that all the old men and women in the nursing home were once little kids.Another profound element of American Beauty is in the tag line: look closer. An individual's behavior is not independent of his environment. Humans are conformists by nature, and humans will modify their behavior to assimilate into existing social categories. If any individual dares to stray from the category to which he has been assigned, he is shouted down and ostracized. No one can resist the urge to conform, so why bother? Everyone is nice in public, yet on the streets they blare their horns, scream, and swear. Some boys I know pretend to hate American Beauty because on the surface it seems like a "chick flick." They force themselves to watch gory horror movies and show off to others how they can stomach intense violence and excessive sex scenes. In American Beauty, Angela acts like a total slut, as many girls seem to be nowadays. In the end, however, she is not what she makes herself out to be. Colonel Fits tries to act like such a man, yet in the end it's all just a giant facade. Civilization is but one giant movie, and members of society must start acting their parts if they want to belong to this civilization. Otherwise, they're outsiders. Try walking into a job interview without a tie. You'll be thrown out. That is the power of convention.What if I asked you this question: What do you want in life? Most people would say, "happiness." But is happiness worth deluding yourself for? Carolyn Burnham shields herself from sadness by adopting a positive-thinking philosophy, a philosophy of self-affirming mantras and harsh self-discipline. Positive thinking may help you attain your goals, but positive thinking also blinds you from reality. Is it wise or moral to change the channel when you hear about mass starvation in Africa so you can enjoy moments of fleeting happiness from a cheap romance movie? Self-help is just a euphemism for self-deception. All humans need some complex fraud to distract them from the harsh and nihilistic realities of life, whether it's religion, money, or even love.In spite of American Beauty's greatness, there are problems. Characters are stereotypical, but viewers will hardly notice unless they're ultra-critical. Anyway, exaggeration is essential in satire so that certain points are made obvious to viewers. Furthermore, Alan Ball's original screenplay is slightly edited. The ending is more optimistic.Problems aside, Sam Mende's debut movie is one of the greatest I've seen. Not only is it entertaining but it is also filled with interesting ideas. It's an important film for society because there's so much society needs to learn. One boy I knew refused to watch American Beauty because, as he said, "I'm not gonna watch a movie with a name like that!"Look closer.10/10
American Beauty is the greatest movie ever made.If you haven't already, watch American Beauty by yourself and give yourself some time afterwards to think it over. You will never, ever look at life the same way. It does exactly what movies are meant to do - give us a window into ourselves, and American Beauty does that better than any other film has ever done. No word of dialogue is unnecessary, no character exaggerated, everything is perfect...but if you have seen American Beauty you should know that already. Once you look closer at this movie, and see Beauty in every frame, it becomes so <more>
much easier to look closer and see Beauty in everything around you. You think I'm waxing poetic? Then you must not have seen the movie. Every character is a part of each of us: the Lester Burnham of change, the Carolyn of uncertainty and failure, the rebellion of Jane, the defeated Barbara, the false control of Angela and the Colonel, and the real control of Ricky. To me Ricky, not Lester, is the center of this story; he somehow controls or sets in motion the heart of Lester's rebirth and downfall. There are several parts of this movie where I lose control every time I see it, and none more so than the paper bag scene. To me that scene is simply the greatest monologue ever written.I listened to the message of American Beauty - look closely and you can find Beauty in anything - and it changed my life. I rose out of a long, deep depression and started out into the world. Sometimes there is so much Beauty in the world, I can't even stand it, and it feels like my heart is going to burst.This is the most beautiful movie I have ever seen.
"American Beauty" is tour de force cinema. Sam Mendes' brilliant debut feature depicts a web of characters who yearn for their own 'American Dream' - yet, in the end, only one character truly attains it.Having seen "Happiness" only recently, I could not help but draw comparisons: both films centre around a microcosm of society in which the people, in their own unique way, all strive to be successful or simply 'happy'. But here the similarities end: the characters in "Happiness" undergo a self-realisation process through which they become <more>
increasingly aware of their meaningless existence, and go on to wallow in their own depravity. "Happiness" shows no signs of redemption; whereas in "American Beauty" the audience is offered a sense of hope, of salvation, though the characters must endure a similar fate, or more accurately, they must endure the way of life in which they are trapped.The pivotal character upon which this theme centres, is the father Lester, played impeccably by Kevin Spacey. He is presented to us as a bit of a loser who plays the subjugated figure in the home and at work. He appears resigned to an unhappy life in which he is treated badly by his wife and daughter and his boss at work. Seemingly beyond redemption, Lester transforms from being a loser.Mendes portrays this transformation admirably well: he shows Lester on his 'path to enlightenment' pushed up against a grim background of suburbanite existence. These early scenes are well balanced, forming a steady rhythm of TV commercial-like vignettes which prove very comical, if at times unsettling. As Lester reflects in the film: "My life is like a commercial". And how this rings true: like in "Happiness", all the characters hide underneath this veneer of normality and respectability, yet they are all revealed to be nothing but the opposite: depressed, depraved and desperate.Lester's wife, played by Annette Benning, is the most success-driven character in the story which renders her the most hopeless in the film's tone of moral conviction. "In order to be successful in life one must project the appearance of success" is the maxim she adopts from the 'king' of real estate, Buddy King. It is a phrase which resonates throughout the film: for Benning's pawn, life is all about keeping-up appearances. This is where Lester differs from her: his emancipation is enabled by him discarding the constraints of 'normal life' and following what his heart desires.Lester is the catalyst in this narrative in which the ancillary characters either follow suit as does his daughter and Ricky or pay the price as does his wife and the Colonel . The irony inherent in this film, and it grows with resonance as the film draws to a conclusion, is that the only character who truly becomes free must sacrifice everything in order to achieve it. Yet it is through his sacrifice that he is able to afford the surviving characters a glimpse of hope in life.This film left me gasping for air: its hyper-realism conveys, at the same time, a portrait of the suburban comedy, a jolting-shock of realisation, and a cathartic sense of hope. Mendes depicts a certain people who, to varying degrees, all strive for a certain 'American Dream', yet so few actually attain it. Though whilst one may have difficulty with tagging this film with the 'feel good' label, the beauty of "American Beauty" is that it sits half-way between a desperate cry for help and a reassuring sense of happiness and fulfilment and that is cinema at its best.
It makes no sense that the people at the Academy awarded this movie the Oscar. Since when have they awarded great movies best picture? Maybe this is the beginning of a new Academy without the corruption that has ruled for so long.It was brilliant in every sense of the word, and should not be missed. Special mention must also be made to the excellent direction, and superb acting from the entire cast.
Better than I thought (by toh786)
I just decided to watch this old movie for the first time, since I heard it was a classic. This is one of the few movies where I had water in my eyes. The story was very powerful, the drama was powerful, everything was powerful. "There's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it." I do not this see anything wrong with it, it was a simply a great movie to watch. Highly recommend it.
"Never underestimate the power of denial" (by apparentlyblue)
American Beauty is an exploration of midlife crisis and the illusion of a 'normal' family. Lester Burnham Spacey , his highly strung wife Carolyn Bening and resentful daughter Jane Birch each struggle to find a sense of purpose to their lives as the facade of their happy home deteriorates. The story follows Lester on a journey to turn his life around after meeting his daughter's provocative friend Angela Suvari . His lust for the teenage girl inspires a new lust for youth which he captures by discarding all of adult life's responsibilities in an attempt to re-live his <more>
youth. As he quits his respectable job, takes on a position flipping burgers in a fast food joint, and starts smoking pot he finally gets the object of his desire but was it really what he was looking for? Kevin Spacey's performance as the world-weary and rebellious Burnham is magnificent. The honesty which Lester gives off while everything around him radiates artificiality is astonishingly powerful - aided in no small way by Sam Mendes' use of lighting and colour which is remarkable. Visually, every shot is a work of art, a portrait of discomfort. You can really feel the unease as the camera takes you on a journey through the Burnham household, furbished in blue-greys and white not so much as a fork out of place - mixed with the stark contrast of red roses. In short, an absolutely breath-taking film, American Beauty is shocking yet humbling, sad yet tranquil and ultimately beautiful.
Transcendent. A marvel of a film. There are an astonishing number of themes that are each explored and strongly supported by the cinematography, and that makes this film different each time you watch it. I chose to recognize authenticity and redemption as the central themes, especially considering the 'look closer' tagline. The smart and subtle uses of color support several themes, but are also subliminally subversive. The cinematography in American Beauty and the myriad goals it accomplishes are nothing short of genius and quite nearly mind control. Mendes' direction here is a <more>
staple of self-control and fearlessness in Hollywood. Spacey's performance was shockingly powerful and resonant. Everything just works, even the mishaps. My only caveat: with so many themes, it feels as though they are wrestling for attention. I felt forced to focus on the satirical aspect of the film, which becomes lacking. It's not that the film is beyond comprehension, rather the themes begin to contradict one another, producing a sort of unwanted chaotic element that is detrimental to the greater lessons to be learned. But the achievements in American Beauty cannot be ignored. You can spend days watching this film, trying to wrap your head around the beautiful meaning of life that it presents you with. But it's for you to determine what that meaning is. Top 500 film. 8/10 — ￼watching American Beauty.
America the Beautiful/America the Violent (by Hags6)
American Beauty shows the contrast between the two faces of America.American Beauty extends the idea that nothing is ever perfect. It is set in a small suburb; it shows the contrast between American the beautiful and America the violent. American Beauty shows this idea with Jane Burnham. At the begging of the film she is unhappy with her body while she is looking at best augmentation on the Internet before school. Jane's appearance is a dark gloomy feel, but as the film progresses and Jane has a relationship Ricky Fits. Jane becomes progressively better looking and more appealing to the <more>
audience. She becomes an almost natural beauty in the film much more so than Angela who everyone thinks is a goddess. The real message of the movie is that there is no such thing as beauty, but everyone espiers to be beautiful. In the very begging of the film there is a shot of a rose. As you might know a rose looks beautiful but it does have thorns beneath it just like all of the characters in American Beauty they all have something to hide.American Beauty shows the shady underside of suburban life, or having a mysterious neighbor and a not so perfect marriage. It gets the message across that nothing is ever perfect and there is no such thing as beauty.
Provocative, unique and well-crafted....but not exactly pleasant viewing. (by MartinHafer)
"American Beauty" earned five Oscars--including the biggie for Best Picture. However, I can't help but think that it just couldn't live up this hype when I watched it. Perhaps the competition just wasn't that great, but I can think of a lot of films that should have won this many awards but didn't. Perhaps you don't agree...and hey, that's life.The film is about a group of people who 100% screwed up and disaffected in their suburban lives. I am sure that is THE theme--how bankrupt life can be behind the stale walls of suburbia. The father Kevin Spacey is <more>
having a HUGE mid-life crisis. That's not too abnormal, but his reaction sure is--as he quits his job, buys a muscle car, smokes pot, insults his vacuous wife and begins having sexual urges about one of his daughter's underage friends. The wife Annette Benning is a frigid lady whose only interest is money and prestige...until she decides to have an affair. The daughter Thora Birch appears to be a disaffected teen--which is normal enough until she falls for a creepy guy and begs him to kill her father! Add to this all their 100% screwed up friends--stalkers, murderers, homophobes and nymphettes. None of them are the least bit likable and for me this was THE big problem I had with the film. You cannot connect with the characters because they are so one-dimensional--like caricatures of what's wrong with the American family.Now, this being said, the film sure is original. And, the acting and direction were all very good. And, it certainly is a provocative film--and it will make you think. And, considering how many hollow and vacuous films there are coming out of Hollywood these days, it does make me appreciate the freshness of the film's plot...even if it's so darn unpleasant and a bit depraved--and a lot like watching a slow-motion train wreck.By the way, most taboos are broken in this film, so it's not one to show kids or mother-in-laws. Pedophilia is just one of the many icky topics covered in this unique film.