American BeautyReviewed By desdemona
Posted 10/17/99 01:08:33
American Beauty is a painfully beautiful, passionately intense work of art. It says so much by saying so little; it is thoroughly disturbing yet entirely profound; it is beauty in its purest form. This movie is a symbol of all the ugliness and all the beauty of humanity; this movie IS humanity. Dare I say it: it is genius.Beautiful, painful, intense, passionate...all these words I use are trite; this movie is above that. It makes everything in life seem so trivial, yet the message is that nothing is trivial. American Beauty goes above and beyond simple plot and dialogue; it is a beautifully crafted work of art. The characters and plot are so completely complex and so tightly woven together that to simply take out of the movie the surface value is to be completely dead to emotion and lacking a wonderfully intense level of understanding. To see this movie and appreciate it for all that it is one must be able to truly THINK; one must understand humanity in a way most prefer not to. Yes, it was that good.
I could cover plot, but I will only briefly touch on it. The plot is probably one of the least important things about this movie when viewing it on a deeper level. Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man that is completely dissatisfied with life and is hilariously cynical towards everything and everyone, and Spacey gives nothing less than a perfect performance. Annette Benning plays his equally unhappy and bitter wife Carolyn, and their daughter Jane (Thora Birch) has become almost entirely estranged to the people around her, including her parents. Each character in this story has a severe dysfunction, and the movie is about each finding his own kind of freedom, breaking away from the shackles of normality and the fear of disapproval, and rising above the pretense. But freedom has a price, and that is the infinite sadness of life.
This movie takes the viewer through a tidal wave of emotions. It opens as a darkly comical movie, then slowly transforms into a dramatically powerful masterpiece. In the beginning, the movie was often funny and often sad. The viewer feels the intense happiness and intense pain of the characters, and moves through all the anger and frustration the characters are feeling. It was a constant onslaught of extreme pleasure and extreme pain, but by the end it had worked itself into a perfect harmony of emotions, taking all the feelings and making them one. It draws seperately on each emotion, then brings them all together to create one--one simultaneously beautiful and painful feeling of flawless passion.
This was a beautifully written, beautifully acted work of art. It did something that has been often attempted but never successfully achieved in film: it had meaning. It had truly amazing, well-written characters, from the sadly yet comically dysfunctional Burnhams to the beautiful and severely insecure Angela Hayes to the homicidal homophobic Colonel Frank Fitts to his son Ricky Fitts. Ricky Fitts, the darkly intense boy next door that helps free everyone from themselves, almost like a tortured symbol of what freedom could be and all the happiness and pain that comes with it.
Some of the most important action of the movie is seen through a window or a camera, distorting the reality of it yet intensifying it at the same time. The camera was a way to step back and watch without actually being a part of the action. The window was a way to distance oneself from reality while still understanding it. Ricky seemed to be the only one that could make use of these tools without misinterpreting anything he saw, because Ricky was the only character that always knew who he really was and never tried to hide it. He was the only one that could step back and watch everything happen but still understand it, and he was the only one that could help others understand themselves.
The color red was the dominant impression of the movie. The pure red of roses, a red door, a red wall, red clothes, red fingernails, red lips, red jewelry, and finally the brilliant red of blood. All these reds were wildly bright, overshadowing everything else around it. Why red? Because red is beauty, and it is pain. It is anger and hatred, but also passion and love. It is fear and it is death, but it is also pure and intense. Red is the symbol of this movie because everything red symbolizes, this movie IS.
It is poetic. It is eloquent. It is beautiful.American Beauty is a wonderfully tragic film, flawless on all levels. Its impact is paralyzing; it is utterly amazing. Everyone should see this movie, it is that important.
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