Happy Monday, if that's even possible. Monday is the home to our new Best Picture Project, we hope you enjoy. In case any of you want to watch along with us, the next few movies we plan on watching are Driving Miss Daisy, No Country For Old Men and Platoon. Lets just jump right in...
American Beauty, 1999
I didn’t know much about this film going in. I remember seeing previews back in that day, something about floating roses and naked high school girls, but that’s about all I knew before hand. I would like to state for the record that I absolutely love seeing movies I know zero about. There is nothing more thrilling than a movie blowing you away when you least expect it. That is however, becoming more and more difficult in this day and age of spoilers and the evil internetz. So please do yourself a favor, if you haven’t seen this movie and know nothing about it, go watch it before you read this. Please? I’m serious.
Anyways, I loved Sunset Boulevard because right from the gate you knew the main protagonist was dead/going to die. American Beauty pulled a very similar stunt and it worked to keep you guessing. My wife probably will brag she figured it out from the beginning but it was still a great maneuver to keep viewers on their toes. Besides, my wife figures out all the movies ahead of everyone else. An even better move was to have the movie narrated from the beyond by the posthumous lead. Kevin Spacey fills the roll of a forty something experiencing a mid life crisis, lusting after a seemingly unattainable teenage girl perfectly. The rest of the cast is also perfect and really pieces together a portrait of American insanity. Things are not always as they seem in this film and I think that really mirrors life. We all put up fake walls to keep people from knowing who we really are. We must protect our dirty little secrets.
But I want to talk about the real beauty of the film. When Kevin Spacey’s character realizes the life he’d been looking for was right in front of him the whole time; then he is shot. Afterlife narrator Spacey ends the movie by reminding us that there is beauty everywhere in the world if we are willing to look. We spent some much of our time nit picking and complaining about the small things that we often forget to stop and enjoy their beauty as well. In the end life is the most beautiful thing we have and we should be grateful because that life is all we have. This was definitely worthy of its Oscar win.
American Beauty is a film that I had wanted to see since it was released in the late 90s (which really doesn't seem that long ago to me even though it's now 2011...hmmm now I feel old...). However, I never got around to seeing it, even though I would always comment if someone brought it up "Yeah, I really want to see that." In fact, I put it in our Netflix Que over a year ago, LONG before the husband and I started our Best Picture Project. (Wow! Don't you just love Netflix...it might just be like my favorite thing ever). So we finally got around to watching it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was predictable, but that doesn't mean it was bad or anything. Kevin Spacey rocked it and TOTALLY DESERVED his Oscar for Best Actor that year! Now if you haven't seen American Beauty, I ask you to PLEASE stop reading here as the next part of this post contains spoilers (or keep reading if you are the type that likes to be spoiled).
I loved the music, cinematogrophy, acting and theme of the movie. I did find Spacey's character to be a bit whiney and "whoa is me" but then again, that behavior is essential to the film's meaning and ending. Thora Birch, who I always remember as Teeny from Now and Then, my favorite childhood movie, was great as well. Mena Suvari, who I remember best from American Pie, was good too. Really, I couldn't complain about any of the acting. Also, I got to see what Sandy Cohen would look like with grey hair thanks to the movie. If you don't know who Sandy Cohen is and have never seen The OC, shame on you! Even the husband liked the first two seasons!
Anyway back to the movie, yes I did find it predictable as I mentioned before. I love movies that start out with the dead person narrating... very Sunset Boulevard-esque! I knew that by the end of the movie Spacey's character would realize what a good life he had led, but it would be right as he was about to die. I knew as soon as I laid eyes on him, who Spacey's "killer" would be. Yes, the creepy neighbor who was stuck in the 1950s and a war veteran, who seemed to never have gotten over his time in the war...PTSD perhaps? I also knew that as soon as this character had a brief meeting with the other neighbors, who are gay, at the beginning of the film, that he totally had some homosexual tendencies and was over compensating. When I made this remark early in the film, the husband rolled his eyes at me. This character was fascinating and the way they portrayed his "stuck in the past" personality with the shots of his home (all old decor), his rigid family rules, and a wife, who was the epitome of a traditional 50s wife, was incredible. As the character had an encounter with Spacey's character over a mis-understanding, I shouted "Oh my God he is gonna kiss him." And then BOOM! He did! When Spacey didn't reciprocate, I knew the neighbor wouldn't be able to live with his secret out and that Spacey would soon bite the dust.
However, before Spacey bites it, he finally gets his chance with his daughter's high school friend (Suvari) that he had been disgustingly, yet hilariously lusting over the entire movie. I knew though before they almost "got it on" that something "shocking" would happen...which wasn't at all surprising to me. Early in the movie when they were making her appear to be some big ole hoochie, I said, "I bet she really is just a virgin." CABOOM! Right again! As they are about to do it, Suvari tells Spacey it was "her first time." This revelation ultimately snaps Spacey back to reality and he sees her as just a young girl and no longer a fantasy. After a bout of awkwardness, Spacey finally asks Suvari how his daughter (Birch) is doing (who of course was pretty much ignored by him the entire movie). It is around this time that Spacey's character finally begins to realize his whole life just hasn't been a big pile of dog crap. In his final scene on screen, he looks at a photo of his family and sees that he did have a good, "beautiful" life. Right as he realizes this, he is shot (of course), in what is perhaps one of the most breathtaking scenes of the film. While we never see the creepy neighbor shoot Spacey, we understand that it is he who did as he returns to his home covered in blood.
The end comments about how there is beauty everywhere really pull this film together. So often we complain, whine and don't realize just how good we have it. And like Spacey's character, we never realize what we have until it's too late.
So now that my rambling review is over (and hey I didn't even touch on Spacey's wife in the film...I could probably write an essay), was American Beauty worthy of its Oscar Best Picture win? Absolutely.
- The Wife