Sunday, 30 October 2011

Film Review: AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999)

American Beauty - poster Director: Sam Mendes
Running time: 117 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Genre: Drama
UK Release date: 4th February 2000

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 30th October 2011.


I saw this film many years ago and I remember it being rather great. As it came to the top of my list again I decided to give it another go and I’m very glad I did! It’s better than great, it’s truly excellent! I can’t say I’ve enjoyed a film more in a very long time! Some extraordinary characters, brilliant performances and an excellent script combine to make up one of the best films to come out of Hollywood in the 1990’s by far! But enough of my praise, here’s a brief summary before I praise it some more.

American Beauty - 3 Lester Burnham has a boring job and lives with his wife, Carolyn, and daughter, Jane, in sweet suburbia. Family life is far from happy for any of them; Carolyn is cold to Lester and he finds that hard to take. Jane doesn’t find it easy to fit in and thinks her parents are freaks. She has one friend, Angela Hayes, who becomes an object of affection for Lester, much to Jane’s disapproval. Things take a turn when teenager, Ricky Fitts moves in next door with his repressive father, Col. Frank Fitts, USMC and mother, Barbara. Ricky likes to film everything with his video camera and he eventually introduces himself to the Burnham’s. He and his father are about to have a big impact on their lives, much bigger than any of them could have imagined. I’ll leave it there or the Spoiler Police will be sending me away to an asylum (again).

American Beauty - 5 Alongside a, now iconic, musical score by Thomas Newman, there is also a great collection of contemporary songs used in the film. Beautifully made with not one wasted scene, a rare thing these days. As far as performances go, well, nobody put a foot wrong. Kevin Spacey was brilliant as Lester Burnham and Annette Bening played his wife Carolyn to a tee! Thora Birch as Jane Burnham, Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts and Mena Suvari as Angela Hayes were all excellent! I must also give honourable mentions to; Chris Cooper as Col. Frank Fitts, USMC, Peter Gallagher as Buddy Kane, Allison Janney as Barbara Fitts (I had forgotten she was in it), Scott Bakula as Jim Olmeyer, Sam Robards as Jim Berkley and Barry Del Sherman as Bard Dupree.

American Beauty - 2 I think I liked this movie even more this time around. Since I started documenting the films I’ve watched, I’ve come to appreciate the filmmakers’ art more and more. And I think it is because of this I have a greater appreciation when I see something that I can admire not only for how it makes me feel, but also for the skill of the people that put it out there. It’s a film I would recommend to anyone that loves film, it is one of the best films I’ve seen this year and will easily make my top ten… Highly recommended.

My Score: 9.3/10.

IMDb Score: 8.6/10 (based on 358,207 votes at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88/100 (based on 152 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

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American Beauty - 1 FAVOURITE QUOTES:
[first lines]
Jane Burnham: I need a father who's a role model, not some horny geek-boy who's gonna spray his shorts whenever I bring a girlfriend home from school. What a lame-o. Someone really should just put him out of his misery.
Ricky Fitts: Want me to kill him for you?
Jane Burnham: Yeah. Would you?

Brad Dupree: [reading Lester's job description] "My job consists of basically masking my contempt for the assholes in charge, and, at least once a day, retiring to the men's room so I can jerk off while I fantasize about a life that doesn't so closely resemble Hell." Well, you have absolutely no interest in saving yourself.
Lester Burnham: Brad, for 14 years I've been a whore for the advertising industry. The only way I could save myself now is if I start firebombing.

Ricky Fitts: It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.

…and there are so many more I wanted to put in…

American Beauty - 4 LINKS:
Official Site:


Tom_Film_Master said...

Great review Andy! I own this on DVD and cant wait to see it soon.

Rodders said...

brilliant review, Andy. I haven't seen this in years, a rewatch is definately needed. also, could you comment on my reviews? thanks

HarleyQuinn said...

I really want to see this one. great review!