American Beauty (1999)

SAM MENDES

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

USA, 1999.  DreamWorks, Jinks/Cohen Company.  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .  

Stupendous film debut from director Sam Mendes that’s a must-see for anyone who enjoyed Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening are at the head of a small family that appears to be coming apart at the seams: Bening’s real-estate business can’t seem to do as well as “real-estate king” , and Spacey hates his job so much he’s willing to quit and work flipping burgers at a fast-food joint. Their daughter Jane () has to deal with insecurity and self-doubt in the face of her gorgeous model-hopeful best friend (), plus figure out what to do with the intense neighbour () who seems to be obsessed with her. Bentley has his own plot on the side dealing with his military-obsessed father (a terrifying Chris Cooper) and his positively vacant mother (Allison Janney). Mendes’ switch to film has no difficulties in understanding the medium, layering the film with incredible subtext and getting his actors to underplay over-the-top roles. Spacey shines as a man breaking free of a suburban nightmare and trying to really find the “beauty” in life, as does the ever-beautiful Bening, who seems to grow more fascinating as the years go by.

Academy Awards:  Best Picture; Best Actor (Kevin Spacey); Best Director (Sam Mendes); Best Original Screenplay; Best Cinematography;
Nominations: Best Actress (Annette Bening); Best Film Editing; Best Original Score

European Film Award Nomination Screen International Award

Golden Globe Awards:  Best Picture-Drama; Best Director (Sam Mendes); Best Screenplay
Nominations: Best Actor-Drama (Kevin Spacey); Best Actress-Drama (Annette Bening); Best Cinematography

Screen Actors Guild Awards:  Outstanding Motion Picture Cast; Best Actor (Kevin Spacey); Best Actress (Annette Bening)
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper)

Toronto International Film Festival:  1999

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