Friday, January 30, 2009

American Beauty, finally...

I finally saw "American Beauty" last night. I liked it, for the most part. The character of Lester was an archetype I've seen before, but Kevin Spacey did a good job. Annette Bening channeling Candace Bergen was pretty annoying, she was more of an automaton than a human being. The adult characters I felt more for were the Fitts family next door. Chris Cooper was heart breaking as Frank Fitts, and Allison Janney showed what years in a sham marriage would do to your soul. How about a prequel just on this family? It took me awhile to warm up to the teenage cast, but their stories were inevitably more interesting than Lester and Carolyn's. (Even though I called Mena Suvari's big revelation ten minutes after seeing her character, I still felt shocked by it. And why should Lester, after spending the entire film lusting for teenage jailbait, be given such an honorable and easy way out? Matthew Broderick had a more fitting, and more squirm inducing, denouement in "Election".)
Maybe it was because of all the hype this film has been given (by the media and my friends), but I was hoping to have my head taken off at the end (no pun intended). Instead, it reminded me of an adult John Hughes movie, where the people on screen always sounded more clever and witty than people actually are. We all can't have Alan Ball writing our daily dialogue for us. And as wonderful as that would be (I have to see "Towelhead" now; he really should write a movie about the Fitts family), it would suck to have Sam Mendes around to direct your day-to-day comings and goings so damn flatly! (Eeeuuuwww, what a fucked up sentence to write. Thank god this is a blog...)
I recommend seeing Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" for a more affecting view of families coming apart. "American Beauty" feels sanitized compared to some similar films about male angst and family dysfunction. I liked it, but somehow I couldn't get very close to anyone in it. Give me a Lars Von Trier film about messed up relationships any day. But we can't have a Oscar winning film look that grubby and sound that honest, can we?

1 comment:

  1. I do think that this movie is a touch overrated. I do think it is a Great movie with a capital G. I think that the class you're in saw this really good movie at the time when we were really realizing that movies were important to us. Like I was 10 when Gretzky owned hockey and he'll always be my hero, but a 10 year old now will contend that Sydney Crosby is better.

    I do think that the lack of grittiness was a choice to underscore the suburban "thing." you can't get close because getting close is something people don't do anymore. Name three of your neighboors and all that.

    It is amazing how relatable Lester Buhrnam (Humbolt learns, in anagram, for all you literature fans) is.

    I'm glad you finally watched it though. Now you can have a common frame of reference.


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