American Beauty (1999)

“American Beauty” has been garnering an incredibly good response from reviewers across the country, with whispers of a “Best Picture” victory in store for it.  So does it live up to the hype?  Yes it does.

“American Beauty” is a small, but powerful and finely polished film about the bizarre circumstances that intertwine one man’s life.  In the opening two minutes of the movie a narration by the main character, Lester, assures you that he won’t live to see the end credits.  The rest of the movie unfolds by telling you the story of how he arrives at that ultimate fate.

The cast of “American Beauty” is incredibly strong.  Kevin Spacey can always be counted on to play a believable character and his portrayal of Lester is no exception.  Annette Benning is also very believable in the role of Lester’s Wife, a woman who contributes to the continuing downfall of her husband.  Thora Birch (who has grown up from playing Harrison Ford’s Daughter in all three Tom Clancy adapted movies) rounds out the family in the role of a neglected daughter.  She does a convincing job of becoming intrigued by the boy next door, even though he is a creepy stalker.  First time director, Sam Mendes, comes through for us with smart use of the camera.

The storytelling style of “American Beauty” is very reminiscent of a recent Matthew Broderick movie that no one has seen called “Election.”  Both films have a very quirky, twisted side to their humor and “Election” has also been mentioned as being a possible Oscar contender.  I would check out “Election” if you have already seen “American Beauty,” but be aware that in doing so you are seeing a lesser film.

You are going to want to get down to the Viking Theatre as soon as possible if you want to catch “American Beauty,” there’s a decent chance that it might pull a “Fight Club” and not be here this weekend.  A friend of mine called this movie “Not the best I’ve ever seen, but still a perfect movie.”  I strongly agree with this statement.  “American Beauty” is a film that is going to give you a wild emotional ride and never let you down.

Written for Luther College Chips on November 18, 1999

D.S. Christensen
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