Basically an evil film. The two stars are for adolescent icon Thora Birch and the rather lovely score. Otherwise, 'American Beauty' is the worst kind of "having your cake and eating it" bourgeois child pornography, though I write that as a middle-class white guy who once dated a 16-year-old. That said, that was when I'd just entered my 20s and still thought this was a good film.
A parade of generic wittiness, hidden misogyny, and shallow social commentary. The flying bag sequence is exemplary: if that is indeed so beautiful, why is the rest of the film so aesthetically constrained? Because it emulates advertising? Jesus, that's a silly excuse. If you are looking for a really chilly and provocative film about American consumer-land, go for Todd Haynes' incomparably superior "Safe".
Screenwriter Alan Ball can do much better (see Six Feet Under, True Blood), and so can Mendes (see Road to Perdition) but this remains a (semi) classic entry in the "suburban ennui/angst" genre (with some dollar store "spirituality" thrown in haphazardly)...not "the most beautiful thing I've ever seen", but it gets its message across....and it's a hell of a lot more effective than Towelhead...
Excellent dialogue and acting spiced up by a satirical, excellent view on the Western need for a life that is built up by image and facade. It is impressively put together and directed by a feature film debutante. Thora Birch and Mena Suvari has never ever done anything half as good as in this film ever again and Kevin Spacey does his life's role as sexual predator looking for his own youth.
In nearly every scene, it seems like a character is framed by a window or camcorder frame. We are often in the POV of a Peeping Tom next door neighbor, Ricky Fitts, who records everything he finds beautiful on his camcorder. His subjects, the Burnhams, don't believe in closing their curtains so their messy lives are on full display through their four pane windows.
At first I was a little hesitant in regards to my feelings about the film. Soon enough, however, I understood and it all made sense. The film is a work of art in the way it combines story-lines so seamlessly and infuses themes of idolatry and philosophy; dreams and fears. An all-around great film that clearly has something to say.
Every time I watch this movie I cry because everything Lester did was stop being hypocritical. And when he finally manages to feel good, he is killed by hypocrisy (of society). In the end, Lester describing the one second of eternity of his life before his death is of an irreparable sensibility. Masterpiece!