American Beauty (1999)

American Beauty (1999)

Synopsis – A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s best friend – American Beauty

Director – Sam Mendes

Starring – Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, Wes Bentley

Genre – Drama

Released – 1999

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If You Liked – Cruel Intentions, Eyes Wide Shut, Almost Famous


Beating two of my favourite movies (The Green Mile and The Sixth Sense) to Best Picture, I don’t hold American Beauty any ill will, after all, Sam Mendes crafted a wonderfully poetic story that explores the lives of an outwardly normal suburban family who’ve grown apart and are each looking for ways to bring back the spark to their lives. Be it the father (Spacey) who develops an infatuation with his teenage daughter’s friend (Suvari), the Mother (Bening) starting an affair with a professional rival or the daughter (Birch) starting a relationship with the new boy in town (Bentley).

American Beauty (1999)

The tagline to the film “Look closer”, signals that to properly enjoy this film, this is exactly what you will need to do to fully grasp all the subtle nuances that Mendes and the team worked into the plot. Which in my opinion is what secured the Oscar win, Mendes Best Director and helped Spacey secure his second Best Actor win.

Spacey is the clear star of the piece and despite what you think of his personal life, he’s clearly extremely talented and the Oscar was well deserved, though I prefer his performances in other roles better, namely Seven and L. A Confidential. Annette Bening was also delightful as a wife crying out for love and support from her family, while the younger actors (Birch, Bentley & Suvari) hold their own to leave a lasting impression, which makes it such a shame that their careers have been somewhat curtailed since. I should also give a shout-out to Chris Cooper, who leaves a lasting impression as one of the more complex supporting roles I’ve seen in recent memory.

In terms of direction, we all know how good Sam Mendes has gone on to become, but here, his raw skill is there for all to see, helped no end by the cinematography of Conrad Hall. We should all be thankful that this early success and praise didn’t go to his head as it has other directors (Shyamalan for example).

American Beauty (1999)

The five Oscars and three nominations show that this film was well thought of upon its release, And I’m able to tell you that despite a couple of dated elements and sequences (the bag flying in the wind) that became the source of parody, American Beauty remains a hugely charming slice of late ’90s film-making and it’s no wonder that so many people rank it so highly.

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