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American Beauty

American Beauty (1999)

Released in 1999, “American Beauty” was the winner of 5 Oscars including ‘Best Picture’. One of the awards that most will associate with the film is the ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ that was won by Kevin Spacey for his portrayal of Lester Burnham.

Lester Burnham is a man whose life is riddled with problems. Married for many years, he is constantly arguing with his wife who has grown tired of her husband and his attitude, he is unloved by his rebellious daughter and he is fed up with his job. He fears the rest of his miserable life.

After seeing his daughter perform as a cheerleader, Burnham finally finds something to be happy about in his life as he becomes infatuated by his daughter’s beautiful teenage friend. Although this may sound wrong, the film is not about a perverted man in his 40s who is attempting to sleep with a young teenage girl; it is about the beauty that he sees in her, something that he has not been able to experience recently in his life. This results in a change in lifestyle for Burnham who decides to on a careless search for happiness and freedom that involves quitting his job, working out, and splashing out on luxuries such as a brand new car.

Many scenes involving Burnham are very funny, although ultimately we are laughing at the life of this sad man who faces many problems in a crisis period of his life. In particular the “Smile! You’re at Mr. Smiley’s” is a great scene that shows the problems Burnham is facing and how they have created a new, crazy character who seeks a new life.

Lester Burnham is not the only character that appears to be suffering in their life. Ricky Fitts, portrayed by Wes Bentley is a character that is laughed at in school and bullied at home by his strict and homophobic father, a war colonel who has implemented his strict disciplinary techniques at home for his son. Ricky is incredible lonely and leads a depressing life, like Lester he seeks his own freedom, gaining happiness from his video recordings of the world’s beauty that many overlook.

The film cleverly interlinks its plots, resulting in a final scene that occurs as a result of the lives of all its characters. The ending is perhaps inevitable from the start, we begin find out the truth about many of the characters, Angela (Mena Suvari), the teenage girl that Lester has fallen for is not who she seems, hiding behind an alter ego she has created to fit in with society. The same hidden character is shown by Col. Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper) who reveals his true self after misinterpreting the relationship of Lester Burnham and his son Ricky Fitts.

American Beauty is a powerful film that takes a realistic look at the lives of people who are sad, lonely and not what they appear on the outside. All round there are many great performances in the film but none better than Kevin Spacey in perhaps his best performance as an actor who portrays Lester Burnham perfectly as a man who seeks happiness once again in his life.