CR Top Pick's #3: American Beauty
Director: Sam Mendes
Overview: Lester Burnham is at a milestone in his life...middleage. His wife, Carolyn, is a real estate agent, obseesed with work-related success. His daughter, Jane, is a average teen trying to be more then avreage. And Lester himself works at a desk 8 hours a day. Tired of the same old life, he has an epiphany, taking his miserable life and switching it around, upsideing everyone elses life in the process.
Why It Kicks Ass:
When I first so American Beauty, I had never seen a movie starring Kevin Spacey. But, I felt right at the first glance, that I had been raised on his work. As his role of Lester Burnham takes shape you feel more and more sorry for him. He's losing his wife, he's losing his daughter, yet all he really wants to do is change himself and not be so much of a tight-ass. What I was really impressed about though, is the immediate emotion you feel for his charather. Before you even see him you sypathize with him. He lives in an average suburb, with a medium-upper class house, yet he still feels like he's missing something in his life. It is an emotion we have all felt. Pure desperation.
Although American Beauty has multiple plots churning at once, taking on the point of view of both Jane and Carolyn Burnham at times, the movie has a very well-thought and profound meaning. It shows that life dosn't work when your to uptight because your never willing to take risks, and it also shows that life dosn't work when your too free spirited either, because there is not a care in the world that could effect you. By the ending moments of the movie, Lester Burnham stares off into space, looking at a picture of his family, and this is what appears to be floating through his mind. A realization of being simoltaneously at two different parts of a spectrum, where all he really wanted was to be happy. Yet, for that sublime moment of realization is short-lived, but always lives in his dark dreams.
There are many interlooping themes of drugs, teenage life, glee, homsexual activity and the hatred that follows, but what these all add up to be are the meaning of life and the mortality of man. The quest for the truth. And the answer lies in the fact that people are born, just so they can die. And Sam Mendes makes this a beautiful story that could of been destroyed by any other director.