American Beauty (1999)


dir. Sam Mendes

What makes American Beauty so powerful? Its a study on how we try to achieve happiness. Now, some people try to climb the social ladder to bring happiness. Some people become sexually provocative. For Lester Burnham, all he needed to do was one day, wake up. Surrounded by a wife who hates him and a child who ignores him, Lester is resenting life. However, one day at work he realises he faces the axe and thus ignites his adventure into finding beauty. American Beauty is a study about how we as a race look for beauty in all the wrong places. The mantra of  the film is ‘look closer’ and for good reason.

One of the main messages of the film is the idea of societal control and it’s effect on suburban life. In the film, we are witnesses to the mounting pressure that society puts on these characters throughout the movie. This film will make you question whether to achieve complete happiness, should society change. I often take from the film that the idea of the ‘American Dream’ actually corrupts individuals due to the individual’s constant desire to be happy, when actually what makes you happy is already there, just look closer. The film examines societies views on homophobia and sexual acceptance, love, drugs, teenage promiscuity and family. However, the film suggests that beauty exists in the small things, that you must cherish zed things before its too late.

As a film, it is very hard to describe the mood that the movie creates. Instead here is a famous scene from the film. Warning: Clip contains explicit language.

The cast offer some of the most sharp and natural acting seen in the 1990’s and Spacey undoubtedly deserved his Oscar for his performance.  Moreover, I would recommend watching the picture whilst resisting the urge to snack to ensure you absorb every little detail American Beauty has to offer, however don’t hold yourself back from a refreshing drink to keep hydrated during the experience. When I say ‘experience’ that is essentially, how it feels to watch this picture. When I first watched American Beauty, I was transfixed, the film felt so real and peculiar that I had to watch it again straight after my first viewing. Now, you may not feel that inclined, but I can promise American Beauty will get you thinking about how to find beauty in life.


One of the most famous aspects of the picture is it’s soundtrack. Beautifully crafted by Thomas Newman,  it acts as a guide through the oncoming madness. In my opinion, without a shadow of a doubt, Newman produces one of the most emotional soundtracks ever made.


After watching American Beauty, please tell me your thoughts on the ideas and concepts shared in the film, do you agree with my analysis?.

Critical Opinion

“The film is stunningly poignant, and when first time cinema director Mendes turns his hands to the serious aspects of the disintegration of human souls, the funny lurches to the profound with hardly a flicker of disruption”  Natalie Stone, Sky Movies.


“American Beauty is deeply disturbing, acerbically funny, brilliantly acted, breathtakingly original and highly sophisticated”  Paul Clinton, CNN. 

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