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"AMERICAN BEAUTY"
(1999) (Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Extreme Heavy Extreme Mild Heavy
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate None Mild None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Minor Heavy Moderate Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Black Comedy: A middle-aged man, facing the doldrums of a boring, suburban life, sets out to reinvent himself, no matter anyone's reaction, after his daughter's flirtatious teenage friend reignites his long dormant passion for living.
PLOT:
Lester Burnham (KEVIN SPACEY) is a 42-year-old man whose middle class, suburban doldrums far exceed the standard middle-age crisis. His fourteen-year career at a magazine is going nowhere, his perfectionist realtor wife, Carolyn (ANNETTE BENING), drives him crazy and his angst ridden teenager daughter, Jane (THORA BIRCH) barely communicates with him, simply writing him off as "weird."

Things soon begin to change around the Burnham household, however, upon the arrival of several new people who shake things up. While their neighbors on one side are a gay couple, Jim (SCOTT BAKULA) and Jim (SAM ROBARDS), the once vacant house on the other has now been occupied by the Fitts family. Colonel Frank Fitts (CHRIS COOPER) is a stern, military man whose wife, Barbara (ALLISON JANNEY), seems to be in state of domestic shell shock.

Little do they know that their eighteen-year-old son, Ricky (WES BENTLEY), a boy so obsessed with life and beauty that they once institutionalized him for two years, is actually a successful drug dealer with a penchant for videotaping everything, including Jane next door.

While that initially creeps her out, Jane soon starts to find Ricky interesting once she gets to know him. That only disgusts Jane's gorgeous and fellow cheerleader friend, Angela (MENA SUVARI), who thinks Ricky's a pervert although she herself claims she's slept with men just in an attempt to further her aspiring modeling career.

When Lester meets both Angela and Ricky, he finds a stirring within himself that he long thought dormant and perhaps dead. With Angela, who openly flirts with him, Lester goes into hormonal overdrive and constantly fantasizes about her, when not pumping iron to get into shape and make himself more attractive to her.

With Ricky, Lester finds a kindred spirit whose carefree attitude about life and work -- as well as the expensive pot he sells him -- causes Lester to change his outlook on life. Having successfully blackmailed his former company, Lester sets out to have a good time, not caring that his wife may be seeing local real estate king, Buddy Kane (PETER GALLAGHER).

As everyone reacts to Lester's newfound attitude with shock, he must deal with the fact that Carolyn doesn't like his new self, that Jane half-jokingly asked Ricky to kill him, and that Colonel Fitts becomes suspicious of Lester's involvement with his son.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Considering the strong cast, teen characters and the buzz that will arise from this film, it's a good bet some teens will want to see it.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For strong sexuality, language, violence and drug content.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • KEVIN SPACEY plays a 42-year-old man who's going through a major mid-life crisis. As such, he quits his job after blackmailing his employer, takes up smoking pot, uses strong profanity and lusts after and nearly has sex with his daughter's teenage girlfriend.
  • ANNETTE BENING plays his wife, a perfectionist who isn't happy with her life either and ends up having an affair looking for happiness.
  • THORA BIRCH plays their disillusioned daughter who can't stand her parents, smokes pot, cusses, apparently has sex with Ricky and then plans to run away with him.
  • WES BENTLEY plays Ricky, a teen obsessed with seeing the beauty in things when he's not selling or smoking pot. He also cusses and videotapes people in a manner akin to a peeping Tom.
  • CHRIS COOPER plays his stern, military father who beats his son but turns out to have some dark secrets of his own.
  • MENA SUVARI plays Jane's girlfriend who uses strong profanity and boasts about her sexual experience, although when she nearly has sex with Lester we learn that it would be her first time.
  • PETER GALLAGHER plays a real estate mogul who has an affair with Carolyn.
  • ALLISON JANNEY plays Frank's seemingly domestic shell-shocked wife who seems catatonic most of the time.
  • SCOTT BAKULA and SAM ROBARDS play gay lovers.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief look at the content found in this R-rated black comedy. Violence is extreme due to an execution-style shooting that's quite bloody. Some familial violence is also present with a father occasionally beating his son. Other tense and dysfunctional family moments (parents fighting, distant teenage kids, etc...) are also present.

    More bad attitudes are present in the form of that father beating his son who videotapes others in a peeping Tom fashion, as well as the main character's attraction and partial sexual encounter with his daughter's underage teenage friend. That Lolita-like moment shows some nudity, while other nudity is also present, as is somewhat obscured masturbation, another sexual encounter with movement and sounds and plenty of sexually related dialogue.

    Profanity is extreme due to more than 20 "f" words being uttered, along with other profanities and colorful phrases. Many instances of pot smoking are also present (involving teens and adults), while some drinking and smoking also occur.

    Due to all of that and particularly if you're considering allowing any children in your home to see this film, we strongly suggest that you take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned with the film's appropriateness.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Lester and Carolyn have wine with dinner.
  • Angela and Jane smoke some joints while parked in a car.
  • It looks like Frank has a beer in front of him while watching TV.
  • People have drinks at a real estate reception, where Lester announces that he needs a drink (and we then see him encouraging the bartender to pour more liquor into his glass). Ricky, who's working at the reception, asks Lester, "Do you party? Do you get high?" We later see the two of them smoking a joint outside the reception. Meanwhile, Carolyn has a martini, appears intoxicated and even states that she's a bit tipsy to Buddy who also has a drink.
  • Ricky sells Lester two thousand dollars worth of pot, which he has hidden in a secret compartment in his clothing drawer. Lester then says that "Things have changed since 1973," implying he smoked pot back then as well.
  • Lester smokes a joint in front of Carolyn.
  • Carolyn and others have wine with lunch.
  • Lester smokes another joint.
  • Lester drinks a beer with dinner and later has one when Carolyn comes home.
  • Ricky talks about his father beating him after catching him smoking pot when he was younger.
  • Ricky smokes a joint and then hands it to Jane.
  • Ricky rolls a joint for Lester.
  • Lester has a beer and offers some to Angela who takes a swig.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Ricky's face is a bit bloody after his father punches him several times, and after another similar encounter, the corner of his mouth is a bit bloody.
  • We see blood splatter onto a wall as a person is shot in the head. We then see a large pool of it on a table, with some of it running off, as well as the victim whose head is rather bloody (but we don't see the wound). Later, we see blood on the shooter and their shirt.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Ricky videotapes people (including the Burnham's through their windows), often like a peeping Tom and is a successful drug dealer.
  • Viewers may see Lester's change of attitude and related attraction and later incomplete sexual encounter with Angela as showing both types of attitude.
  • Angela has a conceited attitude and complains that there's nothing worse in life than being ordinary.
  • Frank is decidedly homophobic and says that being gay is something to be ashamed of. He also says that he'd rather Ricky be dead than be gay.
  • We see that Ricky has a clean sample of urine ready in his fridge to give to his dad for his biannual drug test (so that he can pass it).
  • Lester blackmails his company into giving him a year's salary with benefits.
  • Carolyn has an affair with Buddy.
  • Ricky shows Jane that his dad has a Nazi dinner plate as the prized piece in his collection of odds and ends.
  • Frank snoops around through his son's room and his belongings.
  • A person shoots and kills another person.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be suspenseful to some viewers.
  • Since we know what happens to a certain character right from the beginning of the movie, as everything comes to a boil at the end, some suspense arises about whom the culprit might be and when their violent act will happen.
  • We see a gun placed up to a person's head and as the camera pans away, we hear a shot and see blood splatter against a wall.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handgun: Used to kill a person execution style.
  • Buddy states that whenever he needs to relieve some stress, he shoots his gun. Later, we see Carolyn firing a handgun (as do others) at a firing range.
  • Various handguns: Seen in Frank's locked cabinet.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Go f*ck yourself," "Jump your bones," "Jerking off," "Laid" and "Blow"(all sexual), "Loser," "Shut up," "Screw up," "Faggots," "Slut," "Freak," "Took a whiz" (urinate), "Piss," "That sucks," "Whore," "Nuts" (crazy), "Bitch," "Dorky" and "Pissed off."
  • Ricky videotapes people (including the Burnhams through their windows), often like a peeping Tom.
  • Since drug use is made to look cool and relaxing and with Ricky having a successful drug dealer career, some kids may be enticed into either aspect of that.
  • Jane gives "the finger" to Ricky for videotaping her.
  • Jane sees that Ricky has lit the letters of her name on fire in her yard at night.
  • We see that Ricky has a clean sample of urine ready in his fridge to give to his dad for his biannual drug test (so that he can pass it).
  • Ricky hides his drug stash in a secret compartment in his clothing drawer.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A mild amount of suspenseful music plays several times during the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 21 "f" words (11 used sexually as is the word "laid"), 8 "s" words, 7 slang terms involving male genitals ("d*ck" and 1 use of "c*cks*cker"), 3 slang terms for female genitals ("p*ssy" and "c*nt"), 7 asses (6 used with "hole"), 2 damns, 1 hell and 4 uses of "Oh my God," 3 of "Jesus," 2 of "Oh God" and 1 use each of "G-damn," "God," "Oh Christ," "Christ" and "Swear to God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • While talking about her dad, Jane says that she wants a father who's not "some horny geek boy who's going to spray his shorts whenever I bring a girlfriend home from school" (heard twice).
  • We see Lester in the shower masturbating. As the camera passes by the frosted shower door, we see just the top of his bare butt (he's facing away from us) and see his arm moving in a rhythmic fashion at his crotch (but never see the actual act). He states that "jerking off" is the highlight of his day.
  • Lester and Carolyn's neighbors are two gay lovers, but we don't see any activity between them.
  • Jane looks at a breast augmentation web site that shows a picture of a topless woman whose bare breasts we see.
  • While talking with a new efficiency expert at work, Lester mentions another man there who pays women to "f*ck him."
  • Carolyn shows some cleavage.
  • Lester fantasizes about Angela doing a suggestive cheerleader dance (swinging hips, running her hands across her clothed breasts down to her crotch, unzipping her outfit, etc...). During that last part, we see part of her bare breasts (that are then obscured by many rose petals).
  • Angela makes an observation to Jane that the latter's parents haven't had sex in a long time.
  • Lester has another fantasy about Angela where she's lying completely nude on his bedroom ceiling in a bed of rose petals, some of which are covering her breasts and crotch.
  • Angela tells Jane that she likes what men are thinking about her when they "jerk off," and that people who "I don't even know look at me and want to f*ck me."
  • Jane shows some cleavage after coming out of the shower with just a towel wrapped around her.
  • Angela recounts a sexual encounter for Jane and some other girls saying, "He pulled down his pants, yanked it out -- You know, like, say hello to Mr. Happy." Another girl asks "So did you do it with him?" and she replies, "Of course I did."
  • Angela starts to come on to Lester in his kitchen and the two then make out in another one of his fantasies about her.
  • Jane complains that to Angela, her dad is "just another guy who wants to jump your bones." Angela then says that Lester is "hot" and asks Jane, "C'mon, you never sneaked a peak at him in his underwear? I bet he's got a big d*ck." She then adds that if he worked out some, she'd "f*ck him," "suck his big fat d*ck" and "f*ck him 'till his eyes rolled back in his head."
  • We see Angela in some high cut underwear and a top that shows cleavage.
  • We see Lester remove his clothes and stare at his reflection in his garage window at night. As such, we briefly see his bare butt, and then see him lifting weights while standing there nude (but we don't see any more explicit nudity).
  • Lester has another fantasy where he finds Angela in his bathtub, surrounded by floating rose petals. She suggestively states that she's been waiting for him and that she wants him to give her a bath "because I'm very, very dirty." As she slowly spreads her legs (we don't see anything), he reaches down toward the water. Suddenly the scene shifts to him masturbating in bed at night with Carolyn sleeping next to him (we see his hand moving under the covers). Carolyn then wakes up and accuses him of masturbating. He initially denies it, but then admits that he was "whacking off' and then adds various slang phrases for that such as "choking the bishop," and "saying hi to my monster." He then adds that he was doing that because she wasn't going "to help me in that department." She then states that he's not the only one who's sexually frustrated and he then invites her to come on over to take care of that (she declines). He then goes on to say that "I don't f*ck other women."
  • Lester tells Ricky that when he was younger, "All I did was party and get laid."
  • Lester tells the efficiency expert at his job that he goes to the bathroom at least once a day so that he can "jerk off." He then comments again about someone at the company paying to get some "p*ssy" and then slyly threatens to sue this man for commenting about there being an offer to save his job if he'd "blow" this man.
  • As we see the outside of a motel room, we hear sexual sounds and then see the inside where Buddy and Carolyn are having sex. He's on top of her, her legs are spread high into the air, and there's plenty of movement and sounds, but no nudity (they're covered by sheets). She shouts, "F*ck me, your majesty." After they're done and lying in bed (no nudity), she tells him that's exactly what she needed, "…the royal treatment, so to speak."
  • Knowing that Ricky's videotaping her standing in her window, Jane starts to undress, down to her bra (with cleavage) and then takes that off, revealing her large bare breasts.
  • Lester starts sensuously kissing Carolyn's neck, but her warning that he's about to spill his beer on their sofa (that she's reclining on), instantly kills the mood for both.
  • As Ricky videotapes Jane (who's clothed) we see that he's completely nude (but only see a brief view of his bare butt). After he comically zooms in and focuses the camera on her clothed breasts, he then lies down and snuggles up next to her, but nothing else happens (that we see).
  • Carolyn jokingly tells Buddy that they need some junk food after the "work out we had this morning" (implying sex).
  • Angela asks Jane (about Ricky), "So you and psycho boy are f*cking on a regular basis aren't you? Does he have a big d*ck?" Jane replies "I'm not going to talk about his d*ck with you." Angela then says "I tell you every single detail about every guy I f*ck."
  • Frank sees what he thinks is his son having oral sex with Lester (based on his point of view through two windows, one that shows Lester lying back and enjoying himself, the adjacent one showing Ricky bent down as if at his crotch -- in reality, he's rolling and licking a joint near Lester).
  • To taunt his father who's just beaten him (but making everything up), Ricky says, "I suck d*ck for money. You should see me f*ck. I've got the best ass in three states."
  • Jane tells Angela, "Just don't f*ck my dad, all right?"
  • When Frank asks Lester where his wife is, he replies that she's "probably out f*cking" Buddy.
  • With the wrong impression about a man, another man tries to kiss him.
  • We see that Lester and Angela are alone in his living room. She asks what he wants and he replies, "Are you kidding? I want you. I wanted you from the first moment I saw you." He then kisses her forehead, cheek and neck and they start making out. Soon she's lying on his sofa and Lester sensuously runs his hand down her body and pulls off her pants. He then runs his hand up her thigh (we see a lot of the outside of it) and then undoes her shirt. He then opens it up and we see her bare breasts for quite a while. After she says that it's her first time, he backs up, despite her saying "I'm sorry, I still want to do it." Even so, nothing else happens.
  • SMOKING
  • Angela and Jane smoke in one scene (what looks like cigarettes and not pot).
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • The Burnham's are a true dysfunctional family where the parents don't get along and the daughter feels alienated from them.
  • Jane tells Lester that he's barely spoken to her in the last several months.
  • Carolyn and Lester have a fight about him masturbating.
  • Buddy states that he and his wife are getting a divorce.
  • Jane's parents get into a loud argument in front of her.
  • After his father beats him several times, Ricky finally moves out of the house.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Mid-life crises and Lester's change of attitude and attraction to a girl young enough to be his underage daughter.
  • The drug use in the film.
  • Dysfunctional families.
  • VIOLENCE
  • We hear Ricky ask Jane (about her dad), "Do you want me to kill him?" (heard twice) and she replies yes, but then adds that she's not serious.
  • Carolyn slaps herself to regain her composure.
  • Lester throws a plate of food against the wall to get Carolyn's attention.
  • Carolyn slaps Jane on the face.
  • Frank comes into Ricky's room and repeatedly punches his son.
  • Ricky talks to Jane about his dad hitting him when he was younger, and then him taking that aggression out on another boy (and that he would have killed that boy if he had not been pulled off him).
  • Frank hits Ricky again.
  • A person shoots another person in the head at point blank range, instantly killing them.



  • Reviewed September 2, 1999 / Posted September 24, 1999

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [American Made] [Battle of the Sexes] [Flatliners] [A Question of Faith] [Stronger]

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