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Top reviews from the United States
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Kevin Spacey deserved the Academy Award he received for this film. Who else could play Mr. Everyman, a loser who has lost the respect of his wife and daughter and coworkers but fights to get himself out of the rut he is in? The fact that his main motivation is his attraction to his daughter's beautiful 16-year-old friend is a little disturbing, but she turns out to be someone quite different from what she pretends to be, and that relationship ended up being quite sweet and poignant. Lester is surrounded by characters who are mostly caricatures, including his ambitious, unfaithful wife and a neighbor who is hiding a dark secret. I will try not to reveal any spoilers, but just say that this movie is for all those who live their lives in quiet desperation. May you find the freedom that Lester Burnham did, without meeting the same end.
Hands down one of the best modern movies to date (2017). Disappointing to see the poor reviews; those people are too basic and clearly do not understand the complexities and challenges of the western culture, let alone the beauty that any and all life and lives can bestow, if you just open your eyes and heart and watch - like the plastic grocery bag dancing in the wind.
great casting, acting, cinematography, directing and soundtrack...Did I miss anything else? I'm sure I did. 100% perfect film.
I almost quit watching this film after the first 20 minutes or so, as the acting & entire tone of the film seemed somewhat stilted, as if trying to be quirkily off-the-wall and funny but not quite succeeding. But I hung in there, and was pleased to discover a curious fact: as the characters were forced to become more real and honest due to circumstances, so too did the whole film become more relaxed, real & honest. It was amazing to watch, how a filmmaker can reflect the stilted facade that people maintain, in the very style of the film. When the people were hiding their true feelings, the film style felt fake, vaguely cartoonish. But once circumstances forced them to peel away their false fronts, to drop the social personae acquired after years of sameness, years of predictability, years of serving expectations, the acting became stellar and real. For this alone, this film merits a high rating.
20 years later this film has aged like a fine wine. I was actually hesitant to check it out again when I saw it showed up on Prime as I recall it being simply 'out there' with some uncomfortable scenes with Spacey and Suvari...especially in the last 10 minutes...and I was surprised it got Best Picture! Taking a second look today, I truly respect this movie for brashly exposing all the weird and naughty things that would go through the mind of a sexually frustrated and disrespected middle age man. The development of the Jane and Ricky couple unfolded very well - rocky at the start, and great development throughout. Bening was brilliant, and the naked expose of her broken relationship with Spacey really hit home. It reminded me a lot of the traumatic emotional moments in 'Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf'. Best Picture award does not always mean it is a great picture, but this one has all the gritty and controversial elements of others that either won or got nominated in the past (Midnight Cowboy, Clockwork Orange, etc).
The progression from perfect suburbia to unhinged chaos is mesmerizing. Fantastic performances of unhappy people losing it as their veneer of normality crumbles. This completely out-of-the-box film portrays suburban lives with complex dynamics where everyone damages everyone else. Highly recommended.
Not sure exactly how to feel about this one. It's clearly well made and generally excellent. But where you are at in your own personal life could have a major affect on how you see this movie. It's about suburbia where everyone has those white lies to fit in, seem normal, and feel good about themselves. But those lies are told so often that they can become who you see yourself as.
Lester decides he doesn't care about those lies or what other people think. The movie itself doesn't really give an opinion on the good or bad of this decision or the effects on those around you (which may have been interesting in and of itself). It is left open for you to think about and decide for yourself. I feel like it could have explored some areas more, but it is a 2 hour movie and perhaps the whole idea is about how we see ourselves and portray or mask that to those around us.
I loved the originality, the creativity, and the powerful message of this movie. Almost everyone would love being in Lester Burnham’s shoes when he threatens to blackmail his boss and says, “I’m just an average guy with nothing to lose,” and, in so doing, he breaks the chains of slavery so many of us have to our jobs and the roles we’re forced play to keep our jobs and, to be “successful” in the end, we surrender our identities and freedom to be true to ourselves. Never mind the creep Kevin Spacey is in his own life, he’s excellent in this movie, as is Chris Cooper, Annette Benning, and all the other actors. Every character is human and flawed. I’m thinking Janie Birnham, Lester’s daughter, alone, confused, and lost, is the movie’s “hero”. The unpredictable ending will leave you wondering the meaning of the title. Life is not the bed of roses that appear throughout the movie. Terrific music. Lots of meat on the bones meaning plenty to talk about in understanding this work of art. One of my all time favorites.
5.0 out of 5 starsPeeking through the cracked veneer of suburban america
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 25, 2017
Peeking through the cracked veneer of suburban America, and all is not well. This was easily to be 1999's best movie. The debut feature from director Sam Mendes, still stands firmly as one of his greatest achievements, it was also to bring him an immediate oscar for best director. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening are the driving forces in a movie that was also to take the crown for best picture. Spacey' s character 'Lester Burnham', and his midlife crisis are central to the plot. It's a kind of drama of suburban dysfunction, with an added stirring of Noir and Lolita. Thomas Newman music is also hauntingly beautiful.
I am neither inclined nor qualified to do a film review, but I can say that the audio and video quality is great (especially on Blu-Ray) as is the acting from the entire cast.
As an Indian, I had great fun laughing at the "antics" of the Americans. As a human being acutely aware of my own shortcomings and peculiarities, I identified with the characters and their individual stories in the movie and lived their lives vicariously.
In my opinion there is not a poor shot or a loose end in the film. The tying together of all the sub-plots is superb. I have always believed that the director makes or breaks a movie - so hats off to Sam Mendes. AmericanBeauty is as far away from "formula films" as possible but he manages to pull it off with elan.
The movie stays with you long after it is over. You will be left wondering about the reactions and the future fates of the various people around Lester Burnham.
I have seen this film before and I can say that I will watch it again in future.
5.0 out of 5 starsLook Closer, Spacey on Oscar Winning Form
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 31, 2016
Kevin Spacey gives an Oscar winning performance as a suburban husband going though a mid life crisis. Lester (Spacey) is an ad journalist with a teenage daughter who hates him and a career wife who no longer sees him. With the arrival of the Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) and his family next door, Lester starts to strip away his conservative lifestyle and reconnect with the joys of his past, while lusting after his daughters best friend. As Lester become more free he begins to learn that his life as it was, was not as bad as he first thought.
In one year Lester Burnham (Spacey) will be dead. See his final year unfold as he finally finds himself and breaks out of his mundane lifestyle, ruining his marriage and becoming a man who lives in the moment rather than living with regrets. See the lives of his neighbourhood evolve around him and ultimately answer the question of who killed Lester Burnham.
A superb commentary of middle class American life with plenty of drama, comedy and thrilling moments that will have you hooked to the screen.