“… look closer”
Lester Burnham is a depressed and alienated suburban father in a mid-life crisis. An infatuation for his daughter’s attractive friend becomes the catalyst for a search for meaning in his life.
Sam Mendes‘ brilliant debut feature presents itself initially as a bitter sweet portrait of the ‘American Dream’. It manages to effortlessly traverse both comedy and tragedy to shine a graceful light on the disillusionment, anxiety and alienation of modern life. Its true genius though, lies in subtly moving beyond the surface to illuminate core elements of the human condition itself. On one level American Beauty is a pitch perfect satire of modern American life – the crushing conformity of suburbia with its worship of possessions, the triumph of image over substance, the power of convention to control our ideals, the terrifying spectre of bigotry parading as morality, and above all, the willful, frantic urge of individuals to construct an insubstantial facade for themselves to substitute for an authentic expression of life… all in all, the self-incarceration of the human spirit. Its true, American Beauty tells a caustic tale, but never without genuine humour and charm, and it never forgets it’s obligation to entertain.The performances of the entire cast, especially Kevin Spacey, are delivered with integrity and poise, the beautiful cinematography by Conrad L. Hall, the poetic rhythms of Thomas Newman‘s score and, perhaps above all, the masterful script by Alan Ball – all seamlessly combine to make an entirely enchanting cinematic experience. And yet, even for all that there is still something in American Beauty that draws us deeper… a profound and abiding sympathy for the human spirit. At its core there is a gentle reminder that perhaps the ultimate “beauty” resides in the evanescence of all things – especially ourselves.
“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.”