Simultaneously witty and depressing, “American Beauty” tells of repressed desires and untold truths while also being an eye-opening film, encouraging the audience to realize beauty in every aspect of life. Discovering the moral of the story is the core of the film’s cult classic image.
“American Beauty” centers on the Burnham family through the narration of the father, Lester (Kevin Spacey), who is a man of many thoughts and few words. Sarcastic and dry-humored, viewers are sure to fall in love with his character as he endures an emotional and mental rampage fueled by his mid-life crisis.
His wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening), is an angry woman who appears to regret her life decisions. Broken and misunderstood, Carolyn becomes the antagonist as she acts out her rage in unhealthy ways that seem to hurt those closest to her.
Lester and Carolyn’s only child, Jane (Thora Birch), is a stereotypical teenager whose gothic wear and rebellious attitude showcase her desire for real love.
She receives the needed love from the mysterious, borderline-disturbing boy who lives next door, Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley). Now known for his manipulative tactics as Seneca Crane in “The Hunger Games,” Bentley plays Ricky without any flaw or error.
Though Ricky comes off as “different,” he’s really just curious about life, finding depth and meaning in something as simple as a plastic bag floating in the wind, and is invigorated to capture every moment with his hand-held camcorder, often used to record Jane.
Like Jane, Ricky also endures parental abuse from his militant father and passive mother, but his pain is physical instead of emotional. He and Jane’s budding romance is predictable, but necessary.
Chris Cooper, a theatre graduate from University of Missouri – Columbia, plays Ricky’s father, Colonel Frank Fitts.
The Colonel is aggressive, radical and homophobic to conceal his repressed sexuality. One of the film’s greatest twists – and there are a few – involves Cooper’s character. Once revealed, his behavior is understood, demanding the audience to reflect on consequences of self-loathing and repressing one’s identity.
Mena Suvari plays the role of Jane’s good friend Angela Hayes. Seductive and delicate, her racy antics are enough for Lester’s old blood to boil.
She is suggestive and bold all at the same time, but has a little secret of her own.
Complete with valuable lessons, stimulating plots and dramatic surprises, “American Beauty” is a must-see cult classic.