"Thus open the gates of paradise."

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American Beauty

06 Apr 2002

I feel as if this should be part of a Mensa quiz: What kind of film is made in Hollywood, but is character driven and involves questions of morality and identity? Ah! Trick question, right? Nothing like that comes out of Hollywood. Well, mostly nothing.

And yet, here it is. A very good film that doesn't bludgeon you with some superficial moral judgement, and is, as I said, character driven. And well acted! Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening are both superb as a couple living in American splendor -- they have jobs, money, a big house, civic pride. And a marriage, such as it is. What incites a man to change his life? To quit his crummy job? What passions compel a woman to sell real estate? What insecurities do the apparently successful have? It's all there, yours for the taking, reader.

How did this happen? Give credit where's it's due: good acting, good writing (screenplay by Allan Ball), and a clear directorial vision from British filmmaker Sam Mendes.

At the end of the screening, the shmo sitting beside me stretched and said to his companion, "That was one of the worst movies I've seen in ages." Look -- you're not going to see a lot of people in baseball caps at this movie, and this guy's comment is one of the best recommendations I can imagine. Go see it.

Related Sites

American Beauty official web site
IMDB