Film Review: American Beauty

4/5

‘American Beauty’ was released in 1999 and has since acquired virtually classic status by modern standards. A philosophical approach to cinema is refreshing nowadays and under Sam Mendes’ directing, there is no film I’ve seen lately that is as unique in perspective as this one.

The film is primarily about a 42-year-old married man named Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey, who has a weird midlife crisis that involves infatuation with his daughter’s best friend. Spacey won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of the hilariously witty and (despite the pot-smoking) innocent character of Lester – and rightly so. His comedic timing and tone is impeccable, no doubt a result of his experience in stand-up comedy before he began his acting career. The “pass the asparagus” scene is one of my all time favourites in film history.

Despite the humour of ‘American Beauty’, the film has a much more sobering side to it. The death of Lester (don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler – the very first lines tell you he dies) because of a man who is completely in denial of his own sexuality and can’t deal with the fact he kisses another man is completely shocking and if you’re a total softie like me, will have you shedding some tears at the end. But there’s also a lot about beauty (unsurprisingly) in terms of the world.

The character of Wes Bentley, portrayed by Ricky Fitts, is the best at reminding us of the simple beauty in the world. He’s a mysterious character, to say the least, but one that embodies the film’s central message: life is so much more than the ‘stuff’ we have; it’s about proper, meaningful things like love and emotion. That’s what makes ‘American Beauty’ so tragically thoughtful and profound.

And of course, we have to talk about Mena Suvari who plays the role of Angela Hayes, Spacey’s infatuation interest in the film. She is on the surface the ‘American Beauty’ itself. But she isn’t all she seems to be and is perhaps beautiful not because of her looks, but because of her innocence in the end. Suvari’s character is more than just a pretty face and believes intensely that there is “nothing worse than being ordinary”, something that gives us all food for thought.

Overall, ‘American Beauty’ is genuinely a great film – one worthy of the modern classic status it has. The acting is stellar and the message is beautiful. It took me a few days to really work it out, but once it clicks with you, there’s no turning back. For those of us who missed the release of the film due to other commitments (i.e being in the womb), it’s a must-watch. To those who have already watched, it’s a must-view-again.