American Beauty
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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… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Alan Ball's script is a terrific piece of material, and Mendes responds directly to its subversive, provocative vision of a curdled American Dream."
‑ John Hartl, Seattle Times
"Boldly challenging our sympathies, [Lester] somehow wins them because, to borrow a phrase, he's a man in full."
‑ Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine
"Mendes manages to give individuality and distinction to some extremely familiar material."
‑ Philip French, Observer [UK]
"Mendes and screenwriter Alan Ball, both making their feature debuts, resort to a few heavy-handed tactics to get their points across, but their sheer audacity is so exhilarating it hardly matters."
‑ Scott Tobias, AV Club
"In their scathing portrayal of middle-class anxiety, screenwriter Alan Ball and director Sam Mendes create an average Joe determined to unearth the carefully buried truths of his life."
‑ Serena Donadoni, Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
"American Beauty approaches a manic, almost cartoonish edge without falling over. Both Spacey and Bening use extraordinary comic timing to bring these very sad, lost characters to life."
‑ Jami Bernard, New York Daily News
"The hairpin turns from farce to melodrama, from satire to bathos, are fresh and deftly navigated, but almost every one of the underlying attitudes is smug and easy."
‑ David Edelstein, Slate
"Disturbing, bleak, thought-provoking."
‑ David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor
"Beauty is never less than fascinating and always visually stunning."
‑ Leah Rozen, People Magazine
"American Beauty is a profoundly satisfying piece of cinema which works its way inside you, grabs hold of your heart and simply refuses to let go."
‑ , Total Film
"[The filmmakers'] attacks on real-estate agents, corporate America and suburbia aren't so much shooting fish in a barrel as they are shooting fish in a shallow dish."
‑ Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel
"This amazing and impassioned fantasia about American loneliness begins as satire and ends with a vision of the sublime."
‑ David Denby, New Yorker
"Flaws and all, this is intelligent, exhilarating, effervescent film-making, and a remarkable debut from Sam Mendes."
‑ Peter Bradshaw, Guardian [UK]
"British theatre director Sam Mendes made an astonishing film debut with this sublime black comedy about midlife crises."
‑ Lorien Haynes, Radio Times
"American Beauty was a deserving best picture and Lester's rich existential journey and social commentary of modern America peels away the inauthentic and superficial to reveal the epic allure in a bleak suburbia."
‑ Blake Howard, 2UE That Movie Show
More reviews for American Beauty on Rotten Tomatoes

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