Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Peter Gallagher, Scott Bakula
Director: Sam Mendes
Lester Burnham (Spacey) searches for some form of happiness in his life in “American Beauty”. He’s an average, middle-class American who has worked hard in his job for 14 years. The result of this hard work is a 42 year old man with a daughter who hates him (Thora Birch), a wife who nags him (Annette Benning), and a life that bores him.
There’s no doubt that “American Beauty” is a controversial movie. Themes of homosexuality, masturbation, drug use, underage sex and adultery are prevalent throughout the movie. But for some reason, it never becomes a vulgar experience, or a film that should offend. It is a black comedy, maybe even a tragicomedy.
The performances from pretty much the entire cast range from excellent to outstanding. Spacey of course was rewarded with the Best Actor oscar, and there was a nomination also for Annette Benning (Best Actress). Thora Birch is wonderful as the angry teenage daughter and her strange relationship with the equally impressive Wes Bentley is one of the movie’s great achievments.
It works so well becuase English director Sam Mendes does such an outstanding job in his directorial debut for which he was rewarded with the Best Director Oscar. Equally as important is Alan Ball’s wonderful (Oscar winning) screenplay. There are many moments where you can’t wait to hear what Spacey is going to say next and when he does deliver, it’s normally a suitably entertaining and biting comment.