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While struggling to endure his perfection-obsessed wife, an unfulfilling job, and a sullen teenage daughter, suburbanite Lester Burnham falls deep into a midlife crisis and becomes infatuated with one of his daughter's friends. At a glance, American Beauty doesn't sound much different than any other drama in the sub-genre. However, the screenplay is what truly sets this apart. The script manages to pull its viewers in within the first few minute and doesn't let go until the credits begin rolling. Even though some of the characters are a bit of a cliché, they are developed nicely. By the end of the film, most of the characters will raise different emotions from the audience than those they had early on. There aren't very many dramas that are able to draw me in and keep me engrossed as well as American Beauty does. The pacing flows very evenly and mixes humor in with the drama. The plot isn't the most unpredictable, but I didn't care. I was so engrossed by the movie's plot and well-written screenplay that it never affected me negatively or positively.
The cast is undeniably charming. Each actor pulls the audience into his or her character. Kevin Spacey is absolutely phenomenal as Lester Burnham. He rightfully deserved his Academy Award for this performance. Annette Bening is captivating and natural as Carolyn Burnham. She delivers what very well may be the strongest portrayal on screen. Mena Suvari has a smaller role as Angela Hayes, the girl Lester becomes obsessed with. However, she delivers very well in each of the scenes she's in. She genuinely owns this role especially towards the ending of the film. These are just a few of the performances to note from American Beauty. Every actor shines bright and brings the characters to life.
Even though American Beauty is a drama/comedy, who would expect masterful editing and a good sound presentation? The editing is a big part of why the film's pacing feels so smooth and even. Despite the fact that the audio isn't going to show the muscles of your surround sound system, there's a realistic atmosphere. The most immersive sequences are when Lester fantasizes about Angela as the subwoofer shows its presence and the surrounds are put to work. American Beauty uses its visuals and sound stage more than the typical drama/comedy.
Out of all the drama/comedy flicks, American Beauty accomplishes what very few others have executed. Not only does the film draw the viewer in, but makes us care. The humor is fitting and the screenplay is excellent. Audiences are sure to be engrossed by the acting alone. This cast delivers the roles on every level. Even though I have had nothing but positive things to say, the characters do become a bit cliché. Even though the plot points are predictable, this isn't very much of an issue. I suppose this places me in the group that highly recommends American Beauty. It's a well-made piece of cinema that is memorable and captivating.