Monday, July 20, 2009
American Beauty (1999)
By Eric Jessen 7/20/09
American Beauty is a mesmerizing, bombastic Freudian Office Space. It's exhilarating yet tranquil, funny, sardonic, with superb acting: a truly thrilling experience. In American Beauty we're haranguing on the suburbs AGAIN. And this movie will tell you the hidden truth about your sorry lives, (not that Hollywood has been keeping it a secret).
We are all boring and lame and suffering. We are all trapped within our white picket fences and our cubicles but we just don't know it. We all need to let out the fire in our libido.
But don't worry. This movie is our antidote, our rebellious anthem. Quit your job, buy the Firebird convertible you always wanted, mouth off to your wife who hasn't had sex with you for weeks, and ignore your bratty teenage daughter. According to American Beauty, that will make you feel better, that will make you truly happy. (Until your angry wife, or the closet-homosexual to whom you gave “the wrong idea” kills you execution style.) But you know, as the movies say, “life is short.” So you might as well spend your precious time “living.” Did you hear that! Crank up “American Woman” by The Guess Who, light up “the good stuff” that cost three grand from your dealer next door, fantasize about your underage daughter's cheerleader friend. Who cares, just live. And then by the end of your life, which might be rapidly approaching, you'll feel proud. Because you lived your life, at least for a short time (about a year), dancing like a plastic bag in a whirl wind.
Wow. It feels great to get that off my chest. I love a good bi--- slap of all the conformists in the world who love their job and families. They're all really “dead” anyway. American Beauty makes me feel good (I'm being serious). I don't care that it's full of platitudes and new psycho babble like if he's a strict military man who preaches discipline and homophobia then he must be gay. I don't care that the most level-headed character in the movie likes to videotape dead birds and the girl next door. I love that American Beauty bemoans the ordinary sane world and glorifies the absurd borderline depraved people.
Let's give a round of applause to the players. Kevin Spacey is extremely good as the husband, Lester, who does his version of destroying the copy machine (from an aforementioned movie). Annette Bening is perfect as the distraught pantsuit wearing real estate agent wife who gets off on local sales records. American Beauty is full of strong supporting performances: Thora Birch as the “hates her parents” black eye-liner wearing teen, Mena Suvari as the insecure cheerleader, Chris Cooper as the military man, Peter Gallagher as the “king of sales” and Wes Bentley as the thoughtful drug dealing “freak.”
American Beauty is a spectacular nihilist vision. Though it may be a staple of the setback in thinking about the world, and people, in modern movies, it gave me goosebumps of delight.