Look Closer ⭐

American Beauty took me completely by surprise when I first watched it. I wouldn’t have guessed that it would end up being on my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list. With me labeling it my number nine favorite movie. My history with American Beauty is actually filled with more curiosity and shock then any other movie I consider to be my favorite. When I was really young my parents had a collection of VHS tapes. Each movie they had peaked my curiosity, but American Beauty caught my attention the most. American Beauty has a very famous poster of a woman’s bare abdomen holding a single rose. It was so simple, yet so effective. I knew one day I had to find out what this movie was all about. It was R rated, so I knew I couldn’t get away with seeing it at a young age. I’m not even sure I ever caught my parents watching the movie either. As I got older the only thing I really noticed about the movie was its use of rose petals. Nothing about the story or even who was in it. So one day I got the movie on Netflix and after years of guessing I finally found out what American Beauty was all about. Needless to say, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but it didn’t take me long to realize how special the movie really was…

American-Beauty

Angela surrounded by petals

American Beauty is set in a suburban neighborhood. With a middle-class family at the forefront. A father, mother, and their daughter that you might assume are perfectly happy. Look closer. Everybody in American Beauty is dealing with their own personal problems. Nobody is 100% happy and everyone is looking for a way out. Lester Burnham is a husband and father who feels he doesn’t matter. His wife doesn’t satisfy him, his daughter hates him, and he’s underappreciated at his job. Everything changes for him when he attends his daughter’s cheer routine. That’s where he sees her for the first time. Angela, his daughter’s best friend who he develops an attraction to (and fantasizes about). With the help of his new neighbor, Lester experiences a midlife crisis that leads him on a path of self improvement, but also self destruction. He quits his job, starts working a fast food job, buys his dream car, works out, and smokes pot. Carolyn is Lester’s wife who feels like a failure as a real estate agent. So she projects an image of success in order to mask her pain. Everything changes for her when she meets someone who can satisfy her own personal needs. Jane is their daughter who has low self-esteem due to her friend Angela being more experienced than she is. Ricky and his family are the new neighbors who move in across the street. Ricky is a confident drug dealer who records everything he sees, because he thinks life is beautiful. He feels trapped by his father the Colonel. A strict, old fashioned, homophobic man who wants what’s best for his son. Ricky and Jane find happiness in one another when they realize how different they both are. American Beauty is all about life and the expectations we have. How we perceive people and how they hide who they really are on the inside. American Beauty is a drama, but it does have many hilarious moments. Along with some romance and a little mystery. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s the most surprising movie I’ve ever seen…

Angela opens her shirt to reveal petals

American Beauty is many things to many people, but for me it’s a character study. I’ve seen a lot of movies in my life and I always feel like the characters can make or break the movie. It’s important that whoever is living the story fits. American Beauty came out in the late 90’s. During this time, a lot of movies were being made that questioned modern day monotony. With themes of materialism, lifestyle choices, and relationships being a main focus. Every character in American Beauty fits these themes perfectly. It’s not hard to imagine there being people like this in real life. People who feel like they’re trapped in their own sense of normality. What really surprised me about the movie is how everyone’s story ends. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say nobody is who they appear to be. It does help that American Beauty has an amazing cast. Admittedly, the idea of a middle aged man falling in love with a teenage girl is creepy, but Lester is portrayed in a way that makes you at least understand his reason for doing this. Regardless of what happened in his personal life, Kevin Spacey is still a great actor who more than earned his Oscar. Annette Bening also gives a spot on performance. She plays Carolyn in such a complex way where she feels like a phony and very real at the same time. It’s the best performance of her career and she definitely should have won an Oscar too. Other notable actors include Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper, and Allison Janney. As well as All-American actress Mena Suvari. I say All-American because this is strangely one of many movies/shows she’s appeared in with “American” in the title (American Pie for example). But this is the role that made her an icon. American Beauty is filled with iconic shots, symbolism, and careful camera work. The scene with a naked Angela surrounded by petals is definitely the biggest stand out. Or any scene with petals really. As well as what first time director Sam Mendes does with rain and windows. He originally wrote the movie as a play and it certainly shows in how much attention he gives to the environment. American Beauty is definitely different, but it’s more than deserving of all its Oscar wins. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor Kevin Spacey, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. Although that might not have happened if the movie went with its original script. Which painted the movie more as a courtroom drama. Instead of what it needed to be. American Beauty is a brilliant movie about how we should look closer at the beauty in the world, even where we least expect it. Even a plastic bag floating in the wind.

Angela bathes in petals

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