American Beauty (1999)

logoDirector: Sam Mendes

Writer: Alan Ball (Screenplay)

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Betley, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper, Peter Gallagher, Allison Janney, Scott Bakula


Plot: A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s best friend.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Ending the Millennium With A Classic


Story: American Beauty starts narration from our lead Lester Burnham (Spacey) explaining his life and that he will be dead in a year. Lester lives through the same old routine and is overall tired of his life. Lester is married to Carolyn (Bening) a real estate agent and has a teenage daughter Jane (Birch) who is struggling with the typical teenage problems. Lester is being pressured by his new boss who he thinks has no experience in the field.

Lester & Carolyn decide to take more interest in their daughter’s life which includes going to watch her cheer leading performance where Lester starts getting an instant fascination with fellow cheerleader Angela Hayes (Suvari). The Burnham’s have just got new neighbours in the Fitts, Colonel (Cooper) and his son Ricky (Bentley) who has an obsession with filming his everyday life. What follows is a look into suburban life.

American Beauty manages to balance every character to end up telling a story of everyday life and how it can change because the people closest to you really don’t know what you are up too. We get to look closer are how the perception of a person can hide the reality that is going on in the life and we get to see the different things that could happen. It is hard to really discuss too much about this film because I have looked into the characters closer next and this film is very much character driven which helps the story shine through. (10/10)


Actor Review


Kevin Spacey: Lester Burnham is an average man who is tired of the same old routine and decides to break out, he gets himself fired, starts taking drugs all while obsessing over his daughters friend. Kevin gives a brilliant performance but as you would expect from him. (10/10)


Annette Bening: Carolyn Burnham is a real estate agent who puts on a brave face all while struggling with her own problems leading to her having an affair as her relationship with Lester starts to get stretched. Annette shines here with mixed emotions about Lester through the film. (10/10)


Thora Birch: Jane Burnham is the moodiest cheerleader ever who doesn’t seem to get the attention a cheerleader gets from the guys, she is best friends most beautiful girl in school who gets all the attention, but Jane does attract the new neighbour who helps her come out of her shell. Thora gives a great performance showing that she was ready to break through in the role. (9/10)


Wes Bentley: Ricky Fitts is the new neighbour that could be considered weird because of his obsession with filming everything in life, he also ends up being a drug dealer and the one that Lester uses, all while dealing with an over aggressive father. Wes shows all his talent here but it is a shame this is the highlight of his career to date. (9/10)


Mena Suvari: Angela Hayes is the beautiful girl from school that thinks all the guys want her but when Lester takes a shine to her we learn the truth about her nature. Mena comes away from her American Pie role with this much more adult role showing she didn’t need to just be a teen comedy star. (9/10)


Chris Cooper: Colonel Fitts is the strict father of Ricky who hates everything that is different to his way of thinking, he is a generation behind but he really just wants to protect his son. Chris does a great job as the strict father because we just don’t know what his character will do next. (9/10)


Support Cast: American Beauty doesn’t have the biggest supporting cast with most just turning up in the odd scene while we focus on the main cast through the film.


Director Review: Sam Mendes – Sam burst onto the scene with this stunning piece of directing that will always be known as a classic. (10/10)


Drama: American Beauty shows the lives of these six people and manages to make us care about them all. (10/10)

Romance: American Beauty shows different levels of romance, we get a blossoming starting one, we have a long term one falling apart and we get to see the unavailable ones. (9/10)

Settings: American Beauty gives everything a realistic setting for the story being told through the film. (9/10)

Suggestion: American Beauty is absolute must watch for anyone, it will always go down as a classic in the history of film. (Must Watch)


Best Part: Lester getting fired.

Worst Part: While it is a brilliant drama, the casual fans will find this harder to find interesting.

Funniest Scene: Lester reacting to Angela spending the night.

Favourite Quote: Lester ‘Remember those posters that said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”? Well, that’s true of every day but one – the day you die.’


Believability: I do think this has plenty of realistic ideas of relationships but I do think the end wouldn’t happen. (8/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No


Oscar Chances: Won 5 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor, Dest Directing, Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay. It was also nominated for another 3.

Box Office: $356 Million

Budget: $15 Million

Runtime: 2 Hours 2 Minutes

Tagline:  … look closer

Trivia: Both Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Chris Cooper got their film career starts playing New York subway criminals. Spacey played an untitled mugger in Heartburn. Cooper played a pyromaniac in Money Train.


Overall: American Beauty is a classic that will always be remembered once you have seen it.

Rating 95


  1. I enjoyed “American Beauty” but it made me rather uncomfortable in parts – but I suppose that is the sign of a good movie – if it creates discomfort/emotions.

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