Genre: Drama/Dark Comedy
Main Actors: Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper, Peter Gallagher
Ranked: Daft Funk #2, Dave Thomas #17
American Beauty is the story of Lester Burnham (Spacey), a man going through a mid life crisis. He can't stand his boring life with his domineering wife (Benning) and boring daughter (Thora Birch). After a chance encounter with his pot-smoking neighbor (an excellent Wes Bentley) and forming a crush on his daughter's teenage friend (Suvari), Burnham decides to take charge of his life.
Reasons This Movie Kicks Ass
The main reason this movie kicks ass is because it's one of those "good movies" that absolutely everyone can relate to. It's sophisticated, but without coming off as pretentious. It's depressing, but in an uplifting way. It's somber, but wickedly sarcastic. Basically, you can describe this movie as either a drama with very funny characters and circumstances, or the darkest comedy you'll ever see. Either way, it works.
This one is a tough one. Common logic would say to go with Spacey, who deservingly won the Oscar for Best Actor. But the monster role of the film was Chris Cooper's military father next door. Sure, we've seen Chris Cooper play the military guy/government agent before in...well, everything. But never has Cooper given a performance as nuanced and forceful as his portrayal of Col. Frank Fitts. While far from the main character of the story, you can argue that Col. Fitts is the most important person in the entire film.
Speaking of Monster Roles, it's sad that Thora Birch and Wes Bentley completely fell off the map after this movie. I thought they both did excellent jobs (especially Bentley), and neither of them did anything with the momentum they had coming off this Best Picture winner. At least Thora Birch has had the sense to make bad movies that no one hears about. Bentley not only sucked it up in last year's Ghost Rider, but also embarrassed himself in the parking garage thriller(!) P2 last year.
Knock Your Dick In The Dirt Moment
I'd pick the end of the movie. Unlike lots of twist/surprise endings, this one actually sneaks up on you. And you can't say you weren't fooled. After all, Lester told you it was coming at the beginning of the movie.
But since I can't go into detail without giving anything away, I think the scene where Lester quits his job is downright KYDITD-worthy. Who among us doesn't dream about telling off the corporate suits in charge? When asked to write up an analysis of what he does each day, Lester gives the following essay to his boss:
Or this nugget from the monologue leading off the movie:
"Look at me, jerking off in the shower... This will be the high point of my day; it's all downhill from here."
Who can't relate to that?
Dark comedy, the dude from Quantum Leap, Peter Gallagher's eyebrows, barely legal knockers.