DOWSE guide to the movies                                                                                         

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DOWSE Guide to the Movies
by Tony Lee editor of Pigasus Press

American Beauty

directed by Sam Mendes
122 minutes (18)
aspect ratio 2.35:1

Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is a loser. At least his high-achieving wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) and teenage daughter Jane (Thora Birch) think so. And it doesn't help that he's got the hots for Jane's schoolmate Angela (Mena Suvari). The film begins, Sunset Boulevard style, with Lester narrating from beyond the grave; over the next couple of hours we find out how he got there. If you have ever despaired about Hollywood's inability to make intelligent, adult fare, then this film is for you. It won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Screenplay and Cinematography, and deserved all of them - though Chris Cooper was unfortunate in not being nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Sam Mendes is a stage director making his film debut. With the help of Conrad Hall's Scope camerawork, he gives the film a sense of heightened, stylised realism, helped by pitch-perfect performances from the entire cast. Much of the dialogue in Alan Ball's script is quotable, and it's intricately plotted with several memorable setpieces and a few big surprises. Just for once, Oscar got it right.

Gary Couzens

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