American Beauty (Sapphire Series) [Blu-ray]
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Noted theater director Sam Mendes, who was responsible for the acclaimed 1998 revival of Cabaret and Nicole Kidman's turn in The Blue Room, made his motion picture debut with this film about the dark side of an American family, and about the nature and price of beauty in a culture obsessed with outward appearances. Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man in his mid-40s going through an intense midlife crisis; he's grown cynical and is convinced that he has no reason to go on. Lester's relationship with his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) is not a warm one; while on the surface Carolyn strives to present the image that she's in full control of her life, inside she feels empty and desperate. Their teenage daughter Jane (Thora Birch) is constantly depressed, lacking in self-esteem, and convinced that she's unattractive. Her problems aren't helped by her best friend Angela (Mena Suvari), an aspiring model who is quite beautiful and believes that that alone makes her a worthwhile person. Jane isn't the only one who has noticed that Angela is attractive: Lester has fallen into uncontrollable lust for her, and she becomes part of his drastic plan to change his body and change his life. Meanwhile, next door, Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper) has spent a lifetime in the Marine Corps and can understand and tolerate no other way of life, which makes life difficult for his son Ricky (Wes Bentley), an aspiring filmmaker and part-time drug dealer who is obsessed with beauty, wherever and whatever it may be. American Beauty was also the screen debut for screenwriter Alan Ball.
From the Back Cover
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- American Beauty Look Closer…
- Storyboard Presentation with Sam Mendes and Director of Photography Conrad L. Hall
- 2 Theatrical Trailers
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Top customer reviews
The emotional impact of this film on me was so great that I felt personally affected, a rarity when I watch a film these days. No character of any weight is neglected in this film, each with a carefully considered arc and deep-welled needs and desires that make you care. Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham brings to life the complex psychosexual dilemmas of the character effortlessly, with his trademark offbeat charisma and wit; Wes Bentley, with his penetrating stare and sensitive characterization, brings a tenderness and nuance to the oddball-kid-next-door role of Ricky Fitts; Thora Birch projects deep maturity as Jane, clarifying every internal change her character goes through as she starts becoming drawn to Ricky to leave her family behind; Mena Suvari joins the ranks of Katie Holmes and Sarah Polley as a young actress to watch for, injecting remarkably depth and absolute honesty to the role of Angela; even an antagonist like Col. Fitts is filled by an excellent portrayal in Chris Cooper's performance, a wrenching mix of hardened hatreds and shattering vulnerability. The only character that was questionable to me was Annette Bening's, where I actually feel like Carolyn's private moments (where we're supposed to be able to poke through her mask) are also not believable. However, given so many other moving moments, points of delicious humour, and visually gorgeous cinematography, I didn't really care. And aesthetically this is a feast for the senses: Conrad L. Hall's acclaimed cinematography both makes the actors and scenery look good and help probe into the life within them, and Thomas Newman's score is perfect, as light-fingered as director Sam Mendes' staging and tone, as delicate as the performances, as witty and suggestive as Alan Ball's multi-layered, richly evocative script, and as beautiful as the visuals.
This film soared to the top of my best-of lists right after I saw it, ranking alongside diverse favourites I've seen over the years including GoodFellas, The Killer, Manon of the Spring, Fun, and Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior. American Beauty is every bit their equal in terms of visual sophistication, performances and craft, while surpassing them all in its quest for emotional catharsis and engagement.
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