Friday, April 18, 2014

American Beauty

I should probably gather my thoughts together more *before* I post about American Beauty, but I'm going to write and think at the same time.

I first saw American Beauty in the theater when it came out in 1999. I thought the critique of suburbia and the meaninglessness of the American Dream was a bit of a literary cliche, so at the time I felt slightly superior to the movie. However, I got completely caught up in the spirit of it -- I remember thinking Spacey was cool and hilarious, and I identified with the smart, unhappy, non-conformist perspective of the teens. Annette Bening's character cracked me up. Mena Suvari was beautiful and sexy. I got the humor, I got the beauty, I got the sadness. And the whole thing worked -- the idea that if you paid attention to *anything* , anything at all, really looked at it, it would be beautiful. Even a dead bird or plastic bag -- the problem is no one is looking.

I am happy to say it holds up today. Watching it 15 years later, I am now older than the Kevin Spacey character. (I have also in these years come to realize that I very much dislike this actor.) The first 20 minutes where difficult -- I found him irksome and childish and his lack of empathy, compassion, or awareness of those around him was immediately apparent. But then I softened, and realized I didn't have to like him -- the character is a bratty, immature, selfish, and confused person. I didn't need to think he was cool to appreciate his role and his performance. It was less funny for me this time around, though. For instance, I felt very moved by Annette Bening's performance, whereas in 1999 her character read to me mainly as the butt of a joke. Almost every character (Alison Janey's was an exception) was given dimension. The whole gestalt of the movie was clearer for me, all the characters crisp and equally important and necessary. I'm glad I watched it again.

Now I'm wondering if I should give Ball's True Blood a try even though I don't usually like vampire shows.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree about american beauty--true blood is also worth a try--but not in the same genre...