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American Beauty

1999 Comedy Drama

Noted theater director Sam Mendes, who was responsible for the acclaimed 1998 revival of Cabaret and Nicole Kidman's turn in The Blue Room, made his motion picture debut with this film about the dark side of an American family, and about the nature and price of beauty in a culture obsessed with outward appearances. Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man in his mid-40s going through an intense midlife crisis; he's grown cynical and is convinced that he has no reason to go on. Lester's relationship with his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) is not a warm one; while on the surface Carolyn strives to present the image that she's in full control of her life, inside she feels empty and desperate. Their teenage daughter Jane (Thora Birch) is constantly depressed, lacking in self-esteem, and convinced that she's unattractive. Her problems aren't helped by her best friend Angela (Mena Suvari), an aspiring model who is quite beautiful and believes that that alone makes her a worthwhile person. Jane isn't the only one who has noticed that Angela is attractive: Lester has fallen into uncontrollable lust for her, and she becomes part of his drastic plan to change his body and change his life. Meanwhile, next door, Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper) has spent a lifetime in the Marine Corps and can understand and tolerate no other way of life, which makes life difficult for his son Ricky (Wes Bentley), an aspiring filmmaker and part-time drug dealer who is obsessed with beauty, wherever and whatever it may be. American Beauty was also the screen debut for screenwriter Alan Ball. more..

Director: Sam Mendes

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari

Reviews

  • Spacey, an actor who embodies intelligence in his eyes and voice, is the right choice for Lester Burnham.

    Roger Ebert - The Chicago Sun-Times

    29 November 2012

  • A triumph of acting, writing and directing that defies glib description...the kind of artful defiance that Hollywood is usually too timid to deliver: a jolting comedy that makes you laugh till it hurts.

    Peter Travers - Rolling Stone

    29 November 2012

  • A wonder of a film -- a luminous, beautifully executed drama that gathers the best cast of the year -- the best American film of the year.

    Edward Guthmann - The San Francisco Chronicle

    29 November 2012

  • A singular accomplishment so specifically keyed to Spacey's talents that it mandates going out on a limb to say it contains the performance that will ultimately be regarded as "the one."

    Mike Clark - USA Today

    29 November 2012

  • Spacey is diamond-brilliant in a role that plays as if custom-made for him.

    Jay Carr - The Boston Globe

    29 November 2012

Awards

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role

    Academy Awards (2000)

  • Best Foreign Feature Film (Årets utenlandske kinofilm)

    Amanda Awards, Norway (2000)

  • Best Edited Feature Film - Dramatic

    American Cinema Editors (2000)

     
  • Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role)

    American Comedy Awards (2000)

  • Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases

    American Society of Cinematographers (2000)