By Daphne (Houston)
American Beauty (1999), by Sam Mendes, is an iconic film filled with dark humor depicting the main character, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) as a miserable old man. This is transparent to the naked eye because of the amount of dysfunction in his family. Having the typical only child who hates her parents, the wife who has lost herself in societal expectations. Lester brings himself down by picking at his image and old age, trying to rejuvenate himself, he sets off the family dysfunction to an overdrive and leads the wife to have an affair and the daughter to run away with her new boyfriend who sells marijuana who is also the reason for Lester’s rampage.
Lester haunted by the thought of his life going to waste tries any possible thing to bring the action back into his life. This depicts the struggles of the upper-class American family. The movie starts off by showing the audience that they are getting new neighbors, which at first seems insignificant until the characters are introduced to each other, at first seeming a bit odd to each other but later on getting along, the first being the typical old fashion military dad, Colonel Frank, (Chris Cooper). We are shown that he does not agree with gay marriage and blatantly makes fun of his gay neighbors. This obviously makes the film very satirical which is a huge tone of the movie making it more interesting because of all the different views of the characters. For example, in contrast, Carolyn (Annette Bening), who so willingly plays the societal game. Mostly everything in this movie contradicts its self, take the title, for example, I wouldn’t use the term “beauty” to describe this film, despair would be more fitting to describe this movie.
The predicaments this family finds itself being in is amazingly amusing. You wouldn’t think they would get to such extreme circumstances. At first, you’re given hope, hope for the entire family to be released from their plight. Lester wanting to have sexual interaction with his teenage daughter’s best friend, Angela. Carolyn having an affair with her most competitive real-estate agent, and Jane (Thora Birch) who falls madly in love with her next-door neighbor Ricky (Wes Bentley), who also has a dysfunctional family. In some ways, you almost start to feel bad, of course up to the point to where they turn on each other and everyone suddenly wants to kill Lester. This film being a great rollercoaster of ongoing tragedy which keeps you wrapped up on your couch watching is an amazing thrill.
If you are interested in watching a family chase after one another and not care about each other at the same time, I definitely recommend this movie. You won’t only laugh at the short bluntly comments they make about people in their community, but you will also feel a sort of relation to at least one of the characters. This will definitely not be your quintessential film, you can watch on repeat every day, but it is a great experience I believe everyone should witness because of the eye-opening struggles you don’t see every day in a family.