Tuesday, August 24, 2010

American Beauty (1999)

 Now I haven’t watched this in quite a while. But due to the recent surge of examples being given from this film in my academic classes, reminded me to watch it again. Subsequently the film didn’t cease to floor me just as it did when I watched the first time.

There is something strangely beautiful and tragic about the mundane, or I should say the mundane on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Mendes really did something here and it’s truly wondrous. The screenplay itself is astonishing and it’s these little key moments that screenwriter, Alan Ball, allows into the drama that gets to the beautiful tragedy about the human condition. You can see it's something Mendes takes great interest in. It's amazing to see. It’s these little moments, these brief glimpses into someone’s soul that is amazingly captured in this film. 

Which brings me to cast, let’s get serious here. Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, Wes Bently, Chris Cooper, Allison Janning and Peter Gallagher(who’s eyebrows are a marvel). What’s important is that each of these roles doesn’t serve the same purpose as the other but they’re all acted strongly. Providing these moments, these glances, I spoke about above. Each role, however small, has a moment where we see this glimpse of utter tragedy in their hearts. Mendes watches, he waits, watches the silent vulnerability that leaves their souls bare to us, and it’s beautiful. For example, in a scene with Allison Janning’s character she sits alone at a table; we just sit with her and watch. She’s empty; we can see the void in her eyes and it’s completely breathtaking.

With moments like these we get a chance to peek inside these human beings while they’re on the edge of reason and sanity. It’s so thoroughly compelling and wonderful. It’s sad, but it’s true to form and allows us to get a glimpse of the human condition.

If you haven’t seen it, I don’t think I need to say go watch. Just do it.

Keep an eye out for Mendes' new film On Chesil Beach. Based on a novel written by the awesome Ian McEwan and the screenplay will be written by him also. The film is set in the 1960s and revolves around a couple on their honeymoon. Much much to look forward to!

Happy moviegoing!

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