by Ryan Arthur
Starring Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, and the silver dollar nipples of the girl from Monkey Trouble.The particulars of the film have been covered elsewhere (and in a much better fashion) on this site, so if itís plot and such you want, check another review at our fine establishment, then come back here and read on. I realize Iím probably the 49,863,247th person to review it, so Iíll jump right into my analysis of it.
"Itís just a couch."
I liked it. Quite a bit. Do I think American Beauty is a good film? Yep. Best of the year? Maybe, but with this little asterisk: I think part of the reason why I liked this film so much (and maybe why so many others did) is simply because so many other films Iíve seen this year simply sucked. Even the good movies, in retrospect, werenít nearly as good as Iíd hoped theyíd be. American Beauty surpassed my expectations, and I recommended it to some friends and coworkers, despite the fact that some of the subject matter would have made them uncomfortable, because itís a good movie that deserves notice.
But Christ, itís not the second coming.
For every greatish performance in the film (Wes Bentley in probably the ultimate creepy-guy role, Thora Birch as the deadest of the deadpan teenagers), thereís Peter Gallagher, looking all googly-eyed, with his high school drama club sprayed-in gray streaks, just phoning the role in. You could say Lesterís the best role Spaceyís had since Verbal Kint, and you may be right, but he is the guy who throws himself into every role he plays. Regardless of the overall quality of the flick, you know heís giving it what he can. For the filmís semi-whodunit final reel (because letís face it, Lester is a magnificent bastard and thereís not a few people who wouldnít have done the deed), I offer the ďsee it coming from a mile awayĒ angle involving Chris Cooperís Colonel Fitts and homosexuals. Itís foreshadowing, people, not an out of nowhere surprise twist.
The more I think about American Beauty, the more difficulty I have pinning down my feelings for it. I had no problem with Lester being infatuated with his daughter Janeís (Birch) friend Angela (Mena Suvari). This ainít Lolita, kids. There was a mini-outcry about the subject of Lester lusting after Angela, yet itís not about that at all. She was the turning point for Lester - the catalyst - that set him into motion to make the changes he needed in his life, so itís natural that we see him continue to pursue her, and to a logical end at that. But I was surprised, to say the least, when we see Miss Birchís ample, uh, ďassets.Ē She was in a kidís movie with a monkey, for cryiní out loud.
Ultimately, American Beauty is a look at one manís rebellion: against the wife who hates him, against the daughter whoís creeped out by him, against the life he feels has trapped him. Yes, Lesterís a loser, but heís fighting to change that, and I think thatís what audiences who are digging this movie are responding to. Heís fearing his age and his future, heís looking for love outside of an unsatisfying and loveless marriage, heís desperate to prove his worth at a job that has no use for him, and at the end of the film, he comes out victorious, although not necessarily in the way we might expect.American Beauty is a solid effort, an engrossing effort, worthy of multiple viewings. Itís not a classic, at least not right now, but it certainly could be. Itís just a couch, but itís the
nicest couch youíve sat on in a while.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1852&reviewer=7
originally posted: 12/03/99 00:48:54