A True Beauty
Sam Mendes’ ‘American Beauty’ is a daring, startling and gut-wrenching film that explores a seemingly typical mid-life crisis of a middle-aged office drone, which quickly turns into an unbelievably dysfunctional dimension of self-discovery. The drone in question is none other than Lester Burnham (played by the terrific Kevin Spacey) - a 42 year old who has reached the lowest point in his unexciting, boxed in, suburban life. However this all changes when Lester meets a friend of his young daughter Jane (Thora Birch), the beautiful and mystifying Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari). Lester quickly becomes besotted with the 16 year old, and the fantasies begin, provoking him to change his life style to fit in with his new state of mind. This recently discovered passion, which he had lacked for the majority of the time he spent ‘living the American dream’, sets him on a search for happiness. Kevin Spacey portrays a lifeless man on his way to reinvigorating his life almost a little too perfectly, and this, combined with the trove of spectacular performances from others such as Annette Bening, Thora Birch and Wes Bentley, results in an exquisitely over-the-top yet realistically sad film. American Beauty’s main theme and overall message is that of male empowerment, and escaping the day-to-day expected ‘norm’ of society in favour of spontaneous thinking, excitement, and rediscovering what it is to be young, happy and free. Allan Ball’s insightful and hilarious screenplay may reach unsubtle overkill in some places, such as the tacky monologues often indulged in by Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) And Lester, but is, for the most part, potently effective, leaving the audience unsure of how to react to certain parts of the film. We are made to question the film, question the characters, and question the theme. ‘Look closer’ is a reoccurring motif in this film, describing the need to question everything around us, and not just believe everything is as it seems. This is...
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