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Genre: Drama, Comedy
Country: United States
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper, Mena Suvari, Scott Bakula, Sam Robards, Allison Janney, Peter Gallagher
Director: Sam Mendes
Run time: 120 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
American Beauty was, of course, one of the great movies of the 90s. It was funny, it was dark, and it was a terrific skewering of suburban malaise, creating unlikeable characters and then offering them a sort of redemption when they need it most. It featured some of the great acting performances of the decade (Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Chris Cooper and Mena Suvari, specifically) and earned five major Oscars. Best Picture, Director (Sam Mendes in his film debut), Screenplay, Actor (Spacey) and Cinematography.
The key Oscar, when it comes to this new Blu-Ray Sapphire Series release, is the one for cinematography. The “beauty” in American Beauty doesn’t refer only to the scene where Mena Suvari lies down under a barrage of rose petals. Although that is certainly beautiful – enough that it makes the cover of the Blu-Ray. Now I’m thinking about that scene…where was I? Oh yeah. Beauty. The real beauty in this film comes from the cinematography, which makes every single camera shot a work of art.
There is a chance that this could become annoying, or even nauseatingly obvious, as one of the characters (Wes Bentley with his videocamera) is always searching for beauty in everyday life, in the mundane details of suburbia, and so forth. And the fact that the camera work in the movie does the same thing could be obnoxious. But the focus on such details as perfectly-manicured lawns, impeccable clothing, spotless SUVs and the other banal suburban fixtures is what really makes American Beauty a near-perfect film.
In the intervening years, Mendes has managed to perfect this same formula, and Revolutionary Road is an even better film. But I’m hard pressed to think of a director who had a better debut than Mendes with American Beauty. It truly is one of the most incredibly filmed movies of the 90s, and for that reason it gets even better on Blu-Ray. The Sapphire Series Blu-Ray is released September 21st from Paramount Home Entertainment.