American Beauty (1999) (R)

I’ve referenced “American Beauty” already quite a few times, so I thought that it would be best to go ahead and review this film. 
“My name is Lester Burnham.” So begins a film that is simple and stunning. It’s a tale of suburban nightmares and successes. Instead of filming the super rich people or the extremely impoverished, this film lands in the middle showing how messed up middle class life can be. 
Kevin Spacey is our leading man and he controls the picture with his sarcasm and his wonderful acting. Annette Bening plays his wife, Carolyn.
At the beginning of the film, Lester admits that he’s lost something, a certain je nais se quoi that he wishes that he could have back because he’s positive that his wife and his daughter hate him. He confesses to being a loser and says things like, “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t remember me either.”
Is the film about him regaining that part of himself that was lost? In my opinion, it’s not. The film seems like boiling down everything we have and trying to make our lives happy with the cards dealt to us. Is then the film about happiness? No again. It’s more satisfaction—but I digress.
In essence, the film is a multi-layer, deceivingly simple piece of art. 
I’ll admit, the first time I saw “American Beauty”, I was not a fan. I thought that it was too simple of a plot and too disturbing to really do any good. But like so many other great films, this one sits at the back of your mind and is constantly brought up, to the point where you see and hear comparisons and allusions to the film almost everywhere.
But on second watch, I can firmly say that I think it’s one of the best movies to come out in recent years and slowly working itself onto my favorites list.
This film is marvelous.
Thomas Newman’s score is some of the most influential movie music that has ever been composed. Listen for it, and then you’ll hear it everywhere. Phones ring with the ringtone that is creepily similar to Newman’s score. The score carries the movie on it shoulders, because it’s almost always there. There are very few moments without the iconic soundtrack playing in the background, and those are the moments that need to be paid attention to—the lack of music forces the viewer to do just that.
So what makes this movie so amazing? Is it the script? Yes. The score? Absolutely. The actors? Without a doubt. 
Yet, all of these things by themselves could not have pulled this film off. The cohesion of all the parts and production teams make this film a true classic.
It’s dark and sexual and sometimes funny, much like the life that it’s trying to recreate. It’s deeply moving and truly amazing.
For that’s what “American Beauty” is—life. Beauty is everywhere.
I leave you with my favorite quote from one of my favorite characters in the film:
“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world—I feel like I can’t take it and my heart’s just going to cave in.”

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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