When did you become so Joyless?
American Beauty
Review by Ross Anthony

Poetic in its execution, "American Beauty" is a satire on Joe America who hasn't stopped to smell the roses in so many years that the high point of his day is playing with himself in the shower. He hates his life, his wife hates him and their daughter hates them both ... not a pretty picture.

It takes a beady-eyed next door neighbor and a teen cheerleader to turn things around for this family -- though the turn around isn't at all in a Disney fashion.

If sexual suggestion between adults and high schoolers bothers you (as it does I) you may be off-put by substantial portions of this film (as was I). However, the more often than not artful script, powerful performances by Spacey, Bening and Bentley, strong direction and rosy surrealism cannot be ignored.

I opened with the word "poetic." Like an extended poem, "American Beauty" is sometimes beautiful, sometimes tedious, sometimes too far removed. While I love the theme ... "There is so much beauty, I don't know if I can handle it. I feel like my heart will collapse," I'd have preferred that this realization be stumbled across by means other than pot and lust. Still a strong film.

American Beauty. Copyright © 1999. Rated R.
Starring Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Peter Gallagher, Allison Janney.
Directed by Sam Mendes.
Produced by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen.
Screenplay by Alan Ball.


Copyright © 1999 Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Thursday, 21-May-2009 16:24:54 PDT