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Drama - US

American Beauty (1999)

Duration2h 2m
RatingsUK: 18, USA: PG, Denmark 
Source of storyAn original screenplay
DirectorSam Mendes
Writers/ScriptAlan Ball
StarringKevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Peter Gallagher, Allison Janney, Chris Cooper, Scott Bakula, John Cho, 
RatingsIMDb: 8.3 by .  Rotten Tomatoes: 87% by 190 reviewers .

Elevator Pitch: In an affluent American suburb a typical high flying family is falling apart. Lester Burnham, the father is at odds with his wife who is a failed realtor and their sixteen year old daughter Jane hates them. But Jane has a best friend Angela, with whom Lester becomes obsessed. Meanwhile the Fitts family move in next door and Ricky, their son begins to film the events taking place within the Burnham house. Colonel Fitts his father is a strict disciplinarian who makes Ricky take tests to ensure he is not taking drugs. However, Ricky is too clever for him, and is pivotal in getting Lester to change his view of life. Due to his narration from beyond the grave we know he is to die, but how?

Content: Well! We see Lester masturbating in the shower and in bed. There is a comedic non-revelatory sexual event. Angela flirts with Lester and he fantasizes about her. Both the young women reveal their upper bodies under different circumstances. Ricky often films Jane and we see what he is filming. Colonel Fitts is usually unpleasant to his family. The local gay couple are often featured, as the new normal. Lester negotiates redundancy advantageously and is seen at work in a burger bar, where he catches his wife out with her lover. He works out a lot to make himself attractive to Angela, but unknowingly also attracts Col Fitts.

A View: This film is No 81 of the IMDb top movies. It cost $15 million and made a fortune. It also won five Oscars and five BAFTAs. When reading it I seem to have missed the point because there is a lot of philosophy involved – possibly. But it was very watchable. Some of the set piece were wonderfully presented, standout was Lester and Ricky smoking outside the back of a party event. It is often billed as a comedy but I’m not sure that it is; however, well worth a couple of hours of your time so you can make your own mind up.

Additional Info: Sam Mendes, the director, said that the script seemed to be about something different each time he read it.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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