Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1999. DreamWorks, Jinks/Cohen Company. Screenplay by Alan Ball. Cinematography by Conrad L. Hall. Produced by Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks. Music by Thomas Newman. Production Design by Naomi Shohan. Costume Design by Julie Weiss. Film Editing by Tariq Anwar, Christopher Greenbury. Academy Awards 1999. Golden Globe Awards 1999. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 1999. National Board of Review Awards 1999. New York Film Critics Awards 1999. Toronto International Film Festival 1999.
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” Peter Gallagher, and Spacey hates his job so much he’s willing to quit and work flipping burgers at a fast-food joint. Their daughter Jane (Thora Birch) has to deal with insecurity and self-doubt in the face of her gorgeous model-hopeful best friend (Mena Suvari), plus figure out what to do with the intense neighbour (Wes Bentley) 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.