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American Beauty

5. American Beauty
Sam Mendes, 1999
Screenplay by Alan Ball
Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening & Thora Birch

"I feel like I've been in a coma for the past twenty years. And I'm just now waking up."

Plays out in an endless variety of potential ways: at once a scathing satire of the american dream and the shallowness of suburbia, a novel sexual and social fantasy, a family drama, a sharply witty comedy and comment on drugs, sexuality, mental health, and the dangers of consumerism and cheap vanity.

Not one - and I say this having general distaste for Thora Birch as an actress - of the actors gives a substandard performance. I only put the three stars at the top of my posts but I have to mention Chris Cooper, Allison Janney, Wes Bentley, Peter Gallagher and the brilliantly twisted Mena Suvari.

"Welcome to America's weirdest home videos."

Of course, I'm being unoriginal when I say that Kevin Spacey delivers easily one of the best performances of the 90s. He is darkly obsessed, he is funny, he is a ball of rage and he is absolutely riveting as Lester Burnham.

What really makes this film special to me, though, is the dark, morbidity that runs through its heart. Something about the juxtaposition between those opening lines and what we know from that, and Lester's emotional ascent lends the film a blackly comic atmosphere, something made only better by an excellent soundtrack and a sleek visual style.

These two scenes probably best capture what is so great about American Beauty, to me: