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Let's talk about "American Beauty"

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Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Old 01-20-12, 12:23 PM
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Let's talk about "American Beauty"

This was one of my favorites when I first started getting into movies due to early DVD boom of 1999/2000. I must have watched the DVD at least 5 times. I recently purchased the Blu-ray and watched it last night for the first time in at least 10 years. I see this film totally different now.

Warning there will be spoilers.

The characters are gassed up, over-the-top caricatures. I feel it must be the fault of Mendes to have his actors play them that way as if the word subtlety was never used on set. From Lester's change from doormat to hammy stage actor, to his wife's screaming because she couldn't sell a house, Chris Cooper's laughable performance and worst of all, was Wes Bentley's Ricky Fitts. His oh so serious monologues on beauty and video taping did not work. It came off way more cheesy than serious and 3 minutes of a bag floating in the air. We get it. God makes beautiful things. For a movie with such insane, borderline offensive stereotypes, the moments where the film tries to play it down and get serious totally fall apart.

I do find it interesting that two films from 1999 included characters blackmailing their bosses into getting a year's salary. I find the era, almost romanticized, where the only problems suburban Americans had were being bored. The suburban hell/mid life crisis didn't really work in this film either. It's been done much better since then, though I do give credit because it seemed like some of the ideas of hating your job, your suburban life, your wasted career, hadn't been explored in films at the time. Now it's a cornerstone of a number of shows/movies.

Mendes later explored similar themes in Revolutionary Road with a lot more depth and subtlety. It was like he matured and knew how to say things without having the characters cry or scream.

In closing, I think it's a terrible movie. It doesn't hold up at all. None of the characters feel authentic in any way. It's way too serious for it's own good.

What do you think of it? Have you rewatched it and have your opinions changed?
Old 01-20-12, 12:31 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by PopcornTreeCt
In closing, I think it's a terrible movie. It doesn't hold up at all. None of the characters feel authentic in any way. It's way too serious for it's own good.
That's the same conclusion I came to when I saw it in 1999. I never understood what all the hoopla was about.

I haven't bothered with a second viewing though.
Old 01-20-12, 12:33 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Just curious, but how old are you? Just wondering if in 10 years your life or your maturity level would have changed much.

Much like you, I loved this movie when it came out. I haven't seen it for a good 7 years and I've been thinking about revisiting it as well. I'm 26 now. I've obviously changed a lot in 7 years and since this movie is essentially about everyday life, I'm wondering if my feeling toward the movie would have changed too.

Maybe I'll watch it tonight.
Old 01-20-12, 12:51 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

In ten years you'll realize Revolutionary Road is garbage too.
Old 01-20-12, 12:54 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

I saw it again a couple years ago, I still like it, it isn't a very deep movie but it is well acted and written, it never takes itself too seriously and has a pretty constant darkly humorous tone to it. It's also really entertaining.

The only parts I don't care for are the ones focused directly on Wes Bentley's character, feels like his entire character is from a different movie entirely.
Old 01-20-12, 01:05 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

I've always thought it was a terrible movie. Alan Ball wanted to show what a shallow, hollow existence suburban middle-class Americans lead, and showed what a shallow hack of a writer he is, instead.
Old 01-20-12, 01:25 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Wasn't a favorite of mine when it was released and isn't now. The Insider holds up very well and is by far the superior film.
Old 01-20-12, 01:38 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by wendersfan
I've always thought it was a terrible movie. Alan Ball wanted to show what a shallow, hollow existence suburban middle-class Americans lead, and showed what a shallow hack of a writer he is, instead.
To those of us who'd grown up in the '60s and '70s, this was all well-worn territory indeed. Been there, done that. I suspect lots of young people liked AMERICAN BEAUTY in 1999 because they hadn't seen all those earlier films.
Old 01-20-12, 02:01 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by Goat3001
Just curious, but how old are you? Just wondering if in 10 years your life or your maturity level would have changed much.

Much like you, I loved this movie when it came out. I haven't seen it for a good 7 years and I've been thinking about revisiting it as well. I'm 26 now. I've obviously changed a lot in 7 years and since this movie is essentially about everyday life, I'm wondering if my feeling toward the movie would have changed too.

Maybe I'll watch it tonight.
I'm 29 now. I know I've changed a lot since it came out and I view the film totally different now. I don't think my opinion of a movie ever changed so drastically.

Originally Posted by wendersfan
I've always thought it was a terrible movie. Alan Ball wanted to show what a shallow, hollow existence suburban middle-class Americans lead, and showed what a shallow hack of a writer he is, instead.
You know, when I was watching it I kept picking up similarities to Six Feet Under. I didn't even think of the connection between the two. Ball did quite a bit better on that show.
Old 01-20-12, 02:02 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by William Fuld
In ten years you'll realize Revolutionary Road is garbage too.
God, that movie was fucking terrible.
Old 01-20-12, 02:41 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by Michael Corvin
That's the same conclusion I came to when I saw it in 1999. I never understood what all the hoopla was about.

I haven't bothered with a second viewing though.
^ this
Old 01-20-12, 02:42 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Apparently it's Backwards Day.
Old 01-20-12, 02:49 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by DVD Josh
Apparently it's Backwards Day.
didn't realize that ... in that case I loved American Beauty

thanks for the heads up
Old 01-20-12, 02:55 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
To those of us who'd grown up in the '60s and '70s, this was all well-worn territory indeed. Been there, done that. I suspect lots of young people liked AMERICAN BEAUTY in 1999 because they hadn't seen all those earlier films.
There were plenty of critics that grew up in the 60's and 70's or earlier, including Ebert, that still gave the movie four stars.
Old 01-20-12, 03:15 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by PopcornTreeCt
I'm 29 now. I know I've changed a lot since it came out and I view the film totally different now. I don't think my opinion of a movie ever changed so drastically.



You know, when I was watching it I kept picking up similarities to Six Feet Under. I didn't even think of the connection between the two. Ball did quite a bit better on that show.
You know what's funny? I was probably about 29 when I read the script for American Beauty. Never actually saw the film, because I thought the script was pretty average. When it became this huge thing, I thought about seeing it, just to see if it was any different on the screen. But from the handful of parts I've seen... nope. Exactly the same. I thought it was basically just a bunch of Baby Boomer whininess, and yes, the characterizations--of the neighbor family in particular--were just embarrassingly bad.
Old 01-20-12, 03:35 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Haven't seen this in a few years (prob 5-6) but really liked it when it came out. I think it will still stand up. Although I find the characters to be (in varying degrees) over the top, the point is still made and I found the ride interesting and enjoyable.
Old 01-20-12, 04:08 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

It's interesting to hear people dislike the movie because of the characterizations, or the writing, or the acting, or other general movie problems. I was a real churchie when this movie came out and almost everyone I knew at the time hated this movie because they felt the message was corrupt and dishonest, and it was a twisted portrayal of reality. They also despised the graphic sex, nudity, drug use, and the insinuation that homophobia is just a cover for closet homosexuals.

I really enjoyed the message of the movie, and the general themes, but disliked the package. Lester wasn't sympathetic enough for me and at the same time didn't feel like he was a truly flawed character, the wife was just a shrill one-dimensional harpy (although I thought Annette Bening pulled the role off really well), the daughter is a total throwaway character, and Ricky is just too flat.
Old 01-20-12, 05:36 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Hard to decide who the coolest person in this thread is, so many people jumping to bash this movie

I think some movies are always crap, some movies are timeless classics, some are ahead of their time and only acknowledged later, and some are of their time, and their relevance passes with the years.

A lot of people were, for whatever reason, genuinely touched and affected by this movie, you can't say it was just hype. But a few years later and it doesn't seem at all unique or special. The Oscars and top box-office charts are actually full of movies like these, that seemed great at the time, but don't have continued relevance.
Old 01-20-12, 06:31 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Loved it in theaters and bought the DVD and watched it right away. Haven't watched it since, though.
Old 01-20-12, 06:44 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by davidh777
Loved it in theaters and bought the DVD and watched it right away. Haven't watched it since, though.
Pretty much this for me as well. The word I would have used to describe the film and my reaction to it is "inspirational." I certainly do agree that the Wes Bentley character was a bit overcooked and, due mostly to this, found his falling in love with the Burnham daughter to be a bit implausible (she really was a pretty unlikable character for me). However, the OP's description of "gassed up, over-the-top caricatures" is overstating things quite a bit.
Old 01-20-12, 07:52 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by AVP77
Hard to decide who the coolest person in this thread is, so many people jumping to bash this movie

I think some movies are always crap, some movies are timeless classics, some are ahead of their time and only acknowledged later, and some are of their time, and their relevance passes with the years.

A lot of people were, for whatever reason, genuinely touched and affected by this movie, you can't say it was just hype. But a few years later and it doesn't seem at all unique or special. The Oscars and top box-office charts are actually full of movies like these, that seemed great at the time, but don't have continued relevance.
Pretty much every single movie that's won the Oscar for best picture since 1980 has really fallen off in terms of quality when compared with their contemporaries.

I mean c'mon, Gladiator?
Old 01-20-12, 08:50 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by wendersfan
I've always thought it was a terrible movie. Alan Ball wanted to show what a shallow, hollow existence suburban middle-class Americans lead, and showed what a shallow hack of a writer he is, instead.
I thought American Beauty was smug and nowhere near as profound as it thought was.

Reminded me of the movies Blake Edwards was making in the late 70s until his death. Sort of a postmodern take on his "relationship" movies: 10, Switch, Skin Deep, etc.
Old 01-20-12, 09:07 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only best picture winner of the last 20 years to feature 16-year-old tits. Even without that, it's definitely better than Slumdog Millionaire, Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Chicago, Shakespeare in Love, Titanic and the English Patient. So, it's better than like 30% of the best picture winners of the last 20 years.
Old 01-20-12, 09:36 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

Originally Posted by maxfisher
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only best picture winner of the last 20 years to feature 16-year-old tits. Even without that, it's definitely better than Slumdog Millionaire, Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Chicago, Shakespeare in Love, Titanic and the English Patient. So, it's better than like 30% of the best picture winners of the last 20 years.
Despite everything I said about American Beauty, I have to agree.
Old 01-20-12, 09:37 PM
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Re: Let's talk about "American Beauty"

I'm a bit surprised at all the hate this is getting in here. This is a movie that's over the top in many ways but also doesn't take itself all that seriously. I just recently watched it after the Blu-ray came out and still enjoyed it.

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