Thursday, 23 January 2014
American Beauty (1999)
When I first saw American Beauty, over a decade ago, I enjoyed it very much. I also knew it would not be to all tastes (I was sure my mother would hate it, for instance, and she did indeed). Sometime in the last ten years I picked up the DVD, but never watched it.
42-year old Lester (Kevin Spacey) is trapped in a loveless marriage, with a teenage daughter whose main emotion toward him is contempt, and a job he loathes. It seems we have joined him just as he decides 'I've had all I can stand, and I can't stand no more!', or words to that effect: he blackmails his employer into a severance package, starts buying dope from the kid next door, and gets a job slinging burgers. Meanwhile, his wife and daughter are also experiencing big changes in their lives.
I'm now pretty close to Lester's age now, rather than the late-20s I was when I first saw the film, and that definitely changes my perspective of the film. I sympathise more with the daughter's contempt for her father at the start of the film, and I had a more negative reaction to the characters in general than I originally did. While Lester makes a lot of positive changes in his own life, for instance, he's also kind of a douche to his wife and child in the process. Not that Lester's alone in having his bad points: pretty much every character in the movie is deeply flawed in one way or another.
I'm glad I rewatched the film, and I enjoyed it, but I suspect that if this had been my first viewing (say I'd caught it on TV or something), then I would not liked it enough to want to buy the DVD.