Thursday, November 21, 2013

American Beauty ★★★★

Image result for american beauty movie poster

    As we grow older, numerous feelings seem to slip away from our adult lives; whether it is the feeling of innocence, nostalgia or the simple beauty of a sunset, these emotions tend to dissipate as we become confined in our jobs, responsibilities, and everyday nuisances. "American Beauty" is about a man who refuses to give in to these confinements. It's about a man who wants to regain what he has lost. This man is Lester Burnham, and he is the central character in this 1999 drama that won five Oscars, including Best Picture.

    "American Beauty" opens with a short narrative by our main character, Lester Burnham. He introduces us to himself, his wife, his neighbors, and his daughter, all through a seemingly dark and brutally honest perspective. Lester admits that he and his wife are unhappy. He slogs through his mornings to get to an "ordinary" job in which he advertises for a magazine publication. Our main character is aware of his shortcomings and that something has slipped away. This all changes, however, when he is forcibly taken by his wife to his daughter's step team performance. He becomes infatuated with his daughter's blonde friend, who ironically believes that "anything is better than being ordinary" when Lester is nothing else but ordinary.

    This seemingly fateful incident shocks Lester into coherence for the first time in twenty years. He begins his rebellion by blackmailing his boss, which gains him a full year's salary with benefits; he starts working out--because what young girl doesn't love a guy with muscles; he begins a relationship with the new neighbor's teenage son when he is once again forced to attend a business party by his wife. Lester also indulges in a marijuana habit in an effort to remember his younger days, when life held no responsibility and just adolescent happiness. Lester's rebellion intertwines with the supporting characters' lives and leads to an explosive and superb ending.

     The cast of "American Beauty" is nothing short of perfection for this interpretation of the typical, everyday American family. Annette Bening plays Carolyn Burnham, a woman who matches her pruning shears to her gardening clogs. She is a completely self-involved, career-driven, and controlling individual, who ignores Lester and treats her daughter as an "employee." Bening's nomination for Best Actress in a leading role is much deserved here.

    Thora Birch steps into the role of Jane, the daughter of the Burnhams. Jane is lacking self-confidence and hardly has a relationship with her parents. She becomes attached to the neighbor's teenage son after she catches him videotaping her. She is somewhat flattered that anyone would find her interesting, or physically attractive. (These thoughts are clearly psychological.) Ricky Fitts, the teenage neighbor and admirer of Jane, is played by Wes Bentley. Ricky is a closet dope smoker, and distributor, who has his own infatuations, including video recording and finding beauty in inanimate objects. Mena Suvari plays Angela Hayes, the beautiful blonde friend to Jane and Limerence Object to Lester. Although Mena is limited in screen time and dialogue, she plays this character with grace and poise. We ultimately find out that Angela Hayes isn't what she seems to portray.

     Last, but certainly not least, is Lester Burnham, played by the multi-talented actor Kevin Spacey. Spacey is unmatched in this brilliant portrayal of a middle-aged, suburban father. He certainly deserves the nod for Best Actor, and I believe he found the role that he was made for. I have supreme respect for Spacey and his performances over the years; however, it is his approach to acting that I have the most respect for. Spacey keeps his private life completely guarded against the materialistic world, which can sometimes hinder the realm of cinema. To him, keeping his private life to himself allows us, as the viewer, to completely believe that he is one of these characters on-screen. This could not be truer.

    "American Beauty" is a spectacular film and one that certainly deserves the recognition and praise it has received over the years. As human beings, it is only natural and instinctive that we fall into our everyday routines, and very seldom do we break free. If you have not seen this film, then you should most definitely give it a try. It might help shake you out of your reclusive coma of everyday life. I encourage everyone to try to enjoy life's simpler aspects. Stop to smell the roses once in a while. Before driving home from work, stop at an enjoyable surrounding and witness a beautiful sunset. Sometimes as adults we try much too hard to become something other than ordinary; to become something--extraordinary. You don't have to accomplish impossible feats to become extraordinary. Just live your life.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats for writing so flawlessly.
    Sandeep khosla