The American beauty–a rose indicative of not only romantic love but of lust and desire, a flower representative of the classic, classy romantic courtship, but also the beastly sexual lust for someone. American Beauty examines these relationships: the carnal and the societal, the appropriate, and the well, not so appropriate and it’s name is all too appropriate.
Kevin Spacey plays a man absolutely fed up with his life: the keeping up of appearances, the contempt that he feels for everyone around him and the disdain they feel for him right back. After falling desperately in lust with one of his daughter’s friends, he decides that he couldn’t care less about his job, family and appearances and gives it all up for simple joy and unmasked contempt in his life. His wife, played by Annette Bening, is the complete opposite, obsessed with appearances and trivialities, while his daughter is a typical teenager, angry and confused.
The movie is a simple masterpiece, one that explores the relationships between the family members, as well as their relation with their new next door neighbors. Spacey gives an absolutely brilliant performance, playing a man who has yet to have crossed to insanity, but every once and awhile, a glimmer of crazy creeps across his face, an insanity in his eyes that shows his momentary break into losing it all. Bening’s character is so suppressed that when she cries she full out slaps herself, a sign of her self-oppressive nature and her uptight personality. Their daughter becomes engaged with their neighbor’s son, played by Wes Bentley, who’s dramatic and striking features make him beautiful, but always with an edge of danger and fright about him.
The script is fantastic, and the movie itself is very literary–much of the dialogue contains it’s own imagery and promise, and it goes beyond simply the shown but into another level of meaning. Spacey’s voice-overs are moments of genius and insight, and while the family is a bit exaggerated, there is a truth located in their interactions and speech that connects with any family.
This film may well be one of my new favorites, and watching this movie it is hard to understand why any other film has ever won best picture.