American Beauty (1999)     “As a madman shakes a dead geranium. ”

Sam Mendes (auteur): Road to Pernod

The main problem with this movie is that it wasnít The Usual Suspects.* Oh, it's a fairly interesting film, and it's better than the last six or seven before it. It's just not that great. First, there are too many dumb themes. My recipe for a better American Beauty starts with one tablespoon less anti-materialism. For those of us who've already come to terms with our materialism, the moral bludgeoning is as boring as it is wasted. Next, get rid of the whole "gays and the military" thing, which was as predictable as it is dated. Consider how much better this theme was handled in A Clockwork Orange. There, the repressed homosexuality in the prison warden is more artistically understated and yet just as powerful (provided the viewer has a brain and can read into it). The second problemó way too many scenes without Kevin Spacey. It's like in baskbetball when your hall-of-famer is on fire, but no, they have to kick it out to some crack head role player so he can miss the three and lose the game. Look, Kevin Spacey needs the rock every time. What he can do with his voice is not unlike the great linebacker Mike Singletary with his “wild staring eyes.” There's only two things I fear, God and Kaiser Soseóoh, and Mike Singletary. Wait, three things. There are three things I fear. Anyway, he's as good an actor as people say even if I am a bit uncomfortable with Spacey as effector of physical intimacy, which I must say, came dangerously close to happening in this film. I would have needed at least two more Sam Adams' (the other American beauty) to recover from that one. Also, the escapist dream sequences dragged like those in Terry Gilliamís Brazil and unlike those in Felliniís Eight and a Half. Finally, the relationships were too predictable/contrived, especially between camcorder boy and Cristina Ricci II. Compare this relationship to the one in Eat, Drink, Man, Woman between the camera boy and daughter number three. Mmm, daughter number three...
Note: the drive thru window "this is her turf" scene was great. And admittedly, the camcorder boy was a somewhat interesting addition, although his seeing God in death or death in beauty or beauty over easy with a side of death or whatever was pretty refried (see Harold and Maude). And that guy would have stood up to his father many years ago. I know I did. And finally, I'm pissed because I wasted several hours trying to get a ziplock bag to dance around, so I could film it, and get women. But then I found out that they did it all with strings. What a rip-off!

Note: This year's award for most ludicrous line from a movie review goes to James Berardinelli: “In a year that boasts few truly memorable motion pictures, Mendes can stake a claim alongside the likes of Kubrick and Egoyan as one whose cinematic vision both challenges and entertains.” A more accurate statement would, in fact, be “Mendes can stake a claim alongside a toaster as the film director standing next to a toaster.” Berardinelli could also improve his statement by changing it to, “In a year that boasts few truly memorable motion pictures, one should rent more movies.” Movies like The Third Man for example. You go and rent that puppy. Then come back and tell me American Beauty is better. Then get the hell off my site and never come back.

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