On the Aisle

by Max Carlson

American Beauty was the big winner for "Best Picture" this year, an honor which I think it rightfully deserved.

The movie probes the mind of Lester, a tired, middle-aged man (wonderfully played by Kevin Spacey) trapped in a suburban nightmare. His wife (Annette Bening) is a working machine who demands perfection and his daughter is a moody teenager. The film begins to take flight as Lester simplifies his life and overcomes his torment with some drastic changes.

What makes American Beauty so different from other films is that it brings forth issues and makes statements that other films tend to avoid. It is bold and daring and it works. Spacey’s obvious attraction to his daughter’s best friend is beautiful and also repulsive. In fact, there is a lot of racy stuff in this movie, and it can be very disturbing at times. But, if you can overlook that and see the deep meaning this film has to offer, you’ll be in for quite a treat. I think it depicts the average American life and thought pattern very realistically whether or not people believe that. If, however, they don’t find it realistic, it is because they don’t want to believe that our society has become what it is. American Beauty can be ugly, beautiful, funny, and horrifying…much like life itself.

The direction by Sam Mendes is unique and pinpointing. Thomas Newman’s musical score is like another actor in the film, and it is extremely important in making this movie work. Spacey’s Oscar for "Best Actor" was much deserved and Hilary Swank, who won "Best Actress" for her role in Boys Don’t Cry, robbed Annette Bening of what should have been her Oscar. I hope that those of you who haven’t seen American Beauty will find some time in your life to see this enjoyable, funny, and moving film.

Max Carlson studies music and cinema at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

See all articles by Max Carlson