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American Beauty

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Went to see this in the theatres with my mom and grandmother.  My brother liked this movie.  Andy didn't think much of it.

I guess you would say that this is an "adult angst" movie.

The stereotypes:  First, the disfunctional family.  Kevin Spacey is a whiney, nearly broken little man.  He hates his job and he lusts after his daughter's high school friends.  Annette Benning is a desperate real estate broker.  Their 16-year-old daughter is nearly completely disaffected.  They all barely talk to each other.  The daughter's best friend from school is the class slut, or tease, we're not sure until the end of the movie.

The new next door neighbors aren't quite so stereotypical.  The father is a military man.  The mother kind of zoned out and not totally in touch with the world.   And the son, who comes across very aloof and secure with himself.  They start out making him a bit of an enigma but he ends up as a fairly straightforward character by the end.

One final character is really a plot device.  Peter Gallagher plays a very successful real estate broker whom Benning worships.  And who she cheats on her husband with.

It was a little unclear to me whether who the protaganist was in this movie.   Pretty much all of the characters were deeply flawed.  Probably the daughter was the most normal.  It might have been interesting to center on her and see what she thought of the people around her and how she dealt with them and adapted.  That would let the rest of the cast play off each other in more of an ensemble mode.

Spacey seemed to be the closest to a main character.  He narrated, and his character was really the only one that changed over the course of the movie.  Though, as Andy pointed out, the confrontation with his boss and some of the other rebellions were set up in a pretty hamfisted manner.  It's not like we had any doubt that he was going to blackmail his boss halfway through the movie.

I'm guessing one reason some people are uncomfortable with the movie is the exploration of a grown man lusting after adolescent females.  They played that one in a few different dream sequences.

Most of the characters were pretty annoying.  The neighbor kid was too confident.  Benning was too flighty and hyper.  The neighbor father was too quick to jump to the wrong conclusions.  I know they were supposed to be charactitures, but either they weren't ever the top enough or they weren't normal enough.  Again, Spacey's character at least underwent a transformation albeit obvious.  And he had most of the best lines.

I guess that's what kept me from really liking this movie.  Nobody changed.   They acted pretty much the same from beginning to end.  There weren't really any dynamics during the course of the movie.  Even with the good lines, it came across as too evenly pitched.  It felt a bit monotonous.

This movie seems to be about when stereotypical people ignore their inhibitions and give in to some of their fantasies.  On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Rental.

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