Released 1999 (USA)
American, in English
Director – Sam Mendes
Stars – Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, and many others
It’s the story of suburban malaise and mid-life crisis. Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, the unhappy suburbanite; Bening as his equally unhappy wife, Caroline; and Birch as their disaffected teenaged daughter Jane.
Copious amounts of blue language; fairly graphic sexy times; nudity (male butt, female breasts); violence, including child abuse; and drug use.
Some of the dialogue felt stiff but I don’t think it was the dialogue itself, which is actually excellent. I think it was the line delivery. Sometimes it felt more like a play than a movie.
The rose petal stuff is weird. To me it doesn’t mesh with the rest of the film.
I could see where some people would find it slow and/or boring. I personally don’t feel that way, but I can see such a criticism.
Kevin Spacey knocks this one out of the park. He manages to make Lester immensely likable, despite the fact that he’s a pervy skeezball. He nails every facial expression perfectly (I especially love his “long-suffering misery” face). A lot has already been said about him – he won Best Actor – but I don’t think enough has been said about Bening. She is amazing with her barely suppressed rage and forced cheerfulness. I loved her as much as I loathed her character.
I love the dialogue. There are so many great one-liners and snappy comebacks.
The story is so relatable. There is something in it for everyone. It’s about figuring out who you are, whether you’re a teenager at the threshold of adulthood, or an adult who has only just realized that life didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, or an adult who realizes that you’ve never truly allowed yourself to be who you want to be. It’s about the beauty of life, and how wrong it is to turn a blind eye to that beauty.
I saw this in the theater when it first came out and absolutely loved it. However, I hadn’t seen it since. I was a bit wary. So many movies don’t age well. I thought it entirely possible that it might not seem as good the second time around.
I’m happy to report that I was wrong. I still love this movie. It’s brilliant. If you have ever, even once, even for a tiny second, looked around at your life and wondered how, exactly, it turned out the way it did, you should like this film. It’s an unflinching look at the dark side of American – specifically suburban American – life and it’s very well done. No one is the bad guy here; everyone is just an ordinary person trying to get by and find a little happiness. I find it tremendously moving.
I give the movie 4.75 stars.