Where the Beauty Unfolds -Peyton Perea

American Beauty is extremely well acted, wildly disturbing, and refreshingly original. It is not a typical story about suburban life with mainstream content. Instead, it is deep, dark, and amusing. Director Sam Mendes, who emerges from the theater world, delivers a deep and thrilling story that is brilliantly captured and exhibits his visual technique.

Kevin Spacey plays a suburban husband named Lester Burnham, who even sees himself as a pathetic, ordinary husband who cannot find any connection with his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) or daughter Jane (Thora Birch). Spacey’s brilliant performance begins to carry the impression of being the antagonist of the film, and viewers’ perceptions changes as the plotline unfolds. Lester is a husband who carries out his daily, unexciting life with sexual frustrations, troubles at work, and a distant relationship with his wife and daughter. Meanwhile, Carolyn ignores and dismisses her issues by listening to motivational tapes and self-esteem boosters all while breaking into tears as she remembers her disappointments in Lester and frustrations that are ruining their marriage.

Birch delivers a remarkable performance as the angst-ridden teenager Jane, whose connection with her parents has disappeared into a black hole, and the only communication she has with them is at the dinner table; especially if the topic of conversation is Angelina, a friend whom Lester becomes infatuated with. The seductive Angelina toggles with Lester’s character, as he always sees roses and falls under a spell when in her presence.


Although things seem twisted at this point, viewers realize that Lester is just a nostalgic man, wishing and wanting to return to his carefree adolescent years. This yearning is fulfilled with the help of the new next-door neighbor, Ricky Fitts (Wes Bently), a young man who videotapes everyone and everything, takes interest in Jane and also happens to provide drugs to Lester to help relieve his stress. With this “relief” Lester eventually returns to his teen job working at Mr.Smiley’s drive through, gains a little bit of respect from asparagus throwing, all while Carolyn carries out an affair with a fellow real estate agent. But all this “liberation” sadly comes to an end for Lester as his life takes a twisted turn and unexpectedly ends.


Spacey’s performance must be and should be applauded as he turns this ordinary man, into a lively underdog that we root for, odd as it seems, we want him to escape the disturbingly unhappy life and grow into the man he wants to be. Bening, playing the crazy and whiny, Carolyn, brings her character to a different level because she captures the essence of a female breadwinner whose marriage is far from salvageable. As for Thora Birch, she perfectly embodies the angry and hormonal teenager. The twisted issue each character has is far from ordinary and gives the film a mood of sadness, disturbance, yet liveliness.

Other critics have described this film as not a typical Hollywood film. Each performance has been sprinkled with comic relief that reminds us that they are real people going about life the best way they can. They want love, attention, and respect. This satirical suburban story emphasizes the idea that there is beauty in the breakdown. And while it can be a bothersome journey to watch, it is a piece that Sam Mendes made the audience want to be apart of, which is evidence of the film’s power.



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7 Responses to Where the Beauty Unfolds -Peyton Perea

  1. mediaphiles says:

    Kevin Spacey is one of my favorite actors yet surprisingly I’ve only seen a few scenes from American Beauty, and you review definitely made me want to watch the whole movie. I feel like the dysfunctional suburban family is often an overused trope in today’s media whether it be in TV or movies, but you’ve made a persuasive argument on the unique facets of this family which make them worth the watch.

    -Kayla Pierle

  2. mediaphiles says:

    To begin, your writing style here is extremely good–I love the first paragraph introducing your review. You go in-depth into the plot and characterization of the film, exploring the audience’s reaction to such a dark theme with a suburban surface. The film really does seem to explore the meaning of unfulfilled desires in relationships and careers, which I feel is a relatable topic, yet explores it in an originally twisted way. Enjoyed your review!

    -Meg Schmit

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I love your attention to detail! I’ve never seen this movie myself, but this review makes it sound appealing, without ruining the film for someone who hasn’t seen it. I also enjoyed how you added in the actors, director, etc. in a very casual, nonchalant, but yet purposeful way. Very in depth but easy to read!
    -Maddie Dickens

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I really like how you opened the review, it grabs the readers attention from the beginning. i sat down and watched this movie but only half watched it. I liked the review as it gave me an opportunity to refresh and fill in some gaps that I forgot from the movie. Paul McBride

  5. mediaphiles says:

    This review is enticing, and leaves me wanting to know more about the movie (especially the ending). Not only that but you can really tell that you enjoyed this movie through your writing which makes the movie seem that much more intriguing! I especially enjoyed your description of Spacey’s performance as you talked about how he transformed what could have been a mundane, somewhat pathetic character into someone everyone couldn’t help but root for.
    -Sam Yezerski

  6. Stephanie Albrecht says:

    I really enjoyed your review and the accompanying article was interesting and did a good job of supplementing your work! I’ve had this movie on my watch list for awhile now and will definitely be moving it to the top now. Great job! – Steph Albrecht

  7. mediaphiles says:

    This a great review that makes the film sound incredible enticing with the greating acting, directing, and starring of Kevin Spacey. In addition, the twist for a starting antagonist turning into an underdog protagonist throughout sounds like it keeps the film absorbing. The idea of a film breaking Hollywood stereotypes is definitely refreshing and makes me want to watch the film after reading both your review and the supplement.
    -Sam Cantor

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