American Beauty Movie Review

At last, a movie with no likable characters that is nothing short of a joy to watch. Let's see if American Psycho can top that!

American Beauty chronicles the last year in the life of 42 year-old hack magazine writer Lester Burnham (Spacey), a suburban loser that has just about had it with his humdrum life and decides to make a few changes to regain control, for better or for worse. Those changes include quitting his job and blackmailing his employers, buying a vintage Firebird, taking a new job at the local fast food joint, buying thousands of dollars worth of pot, and plotting to sleep with his daughter's best friend (Suvari, the good girl from American Pie, playing the bad girl here).

If you think he's gone over the edge, wait until you get a load of his Realtor wife (Bening, playing an evil Martha Stewart - okay, a more evil Martha Stewart). Or the daughter (Birch), a zoned-out basket of angst. Or their neighbors, headed by a stern ex-Marine (Cooper) and his pleasant but quietly psychotic drug-dealer son (Bentley). Everyone here is a creep, and it's delicious to watch them play off one another - think of it as an updating of The Ice Storm to 1999.

The joy of Beautylies in its brilliantly drawn characters, great dialogue, flawless acting by all the players, and a clever voice-over by Spacey that, for once, adds quite a bit to the picture. For example, we're told at the beginning that Lester is going to die. While the black comedy unfolds for two hours, we struggle to figure out exactly how he's going to go. Obviously, someone is going to kill him. But who, and how? The genius of the script is that it could be anyone who does it.

Oscar nominations are deserved universally for the cast and crew, and I hope American Beautyis neither forgotten at Awards time nor at the box office. This is a rare and outstanding film that deserves attention and will challenge some heady competition for a place as the best film of the year.

Suvari on high.

Comments

American Beauty Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: R, 1999

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