Sunday, January 31, 2016

American Beauty

Movie Name: American Beauty
Year of Release: 1999
Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper, Mena Suvari, Peter Gallagher, Allison Janney, Scott Bakula, Sam Robards, John Cho, Ara Celi
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis & Review:
"American Beauty" was Sam Mendes' feature film debut, following an acclaimed theater career. It was also Alan Ball's first feature script, following a successful career on television working for shows such as "Grace Under Fire" and "Cybill" (he has of course gone on to create and write the shows "Six Feet Under" and "True Blood"). "American Beauty" is a closer look into the lives of the Burnham family - an apparent idyllic and picture perfect household, the family is in reality alienated from each other. The father Lester has lost his interest and remains completely passive to everything, while mother Carolyn has become a control freak in order to keep her frustrations at bay. Daughter Jane is growing into her own young adulthood, as a young woman with dreams and ambitions. The neighbors next door, themselves a pit of dysfunction, are like a catalyst that start a series of events, that shift the dynamics of this family in every possible way.
Sam Mendes, alongside Conrad Hall's stunning cinematography, capture the dysfunction behind the picture perfect cliche of the American family. The film is smartly written, allowing for the group of characters to be more than simple stereotypes (even when it's an easy cop out to do so). It's also more than a dissection of a way of life - it aims to capture the dynamics and contradictions of living with someone you've grown distant and alienated from. Sam Mendes also illustrates perfectly the level of dark humor and surrealism that permeates the story and life in general. The performances are great particularly Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, both of whom excel in their charismatic portrayals (fantastic work also from Chris Cooper and Allison Janney). The score from Thomas Newman is equally indelible. A good film always worth revisiting.