Written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes, “American Beauty” stars Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham, an advertising executive who has a midlife crisis when he becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend, played by Mena Suvari. Annette Bening stars as Lester’s materialistic wife, Carolyn, and Thora Birch plays their insecure daughter, Jane. Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper, and Allison Janney are also featured.
The movie is part of this year’s Spring Film Series presented by the Churchill Arts Center and will be shown Friday.
The Oats Park Arts Center box office, Art Bar and galleries open at 6 p.m. with the movie beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7, members (3-Movie Special $18); $10 nonmembers (3-Movie Special $27). Tickets are available at the box office on the night of screening or call CAC at 775-423-1440.
Academics have described the film as a satire of American middle-class notions of beauty and personal satisfaction; further analysis has focused on the film’s explorations of romantic and paternal love, sexuality, materialism, self-liberation, and redemption. Critically acclaimed, and received well by audiences, this film won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor (Spacey) and Best Film and grossed over $350 million worldwide.
Movie critic Roger Ebert said “American Beauty” is a comedy because we laugh at the absurdity of the hero’s problems. And a tragedy because we can identify with his failure – not the specific details, but the general outline.
“The movie is about a man who fears growing older, losing the hope of true love and not being respected by those who know him best. If you never experience those feelings, take out a classified ad. People want to take lessons from you.”
Reviewers also praised most aspects of the production, mainly the acting performances (particularly those of Spacey, Benning, and Cooper), as well as Mendes’ direction and the themes of the film; criticism tended to focus on the familiarity of the characters and setting.