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American Beauty (1999)

           This film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but I thought it was weak. Every character in the film is pathologically dysfunctional, but the bad part is that they are superficial, predictable, and unbelievable stereotypes. Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), age 42, is a loser, and he knows he is a loser. His wife and teenage daughter hate him, for good reasons. Not to worry, he rejuvenates himself by seducing Angela, his daughter's best friend, quitting his job, working out and drinking smoothies, listening to Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan, smoking dope, throwing dishes against the wall, getting a new job at Smiley's Hamburgers, and buying a 1970 Pontiac Firebird. Self destruction as personal makeover? Life is beautiful, as he proclaims at the end of the film? Yeah, right. His wife Carolyn is an obsessive phony who lives only for image and finds her own authenticity by bedding her chief real estate competitor. Daughter Jane runs off with the next door classmate, Ricky, a drug dealing voyeur who spent two years in a mental hospital because of his abusive Marine Colonel dad who wrongly thinks he is gay, even while, apparently, he himself is gay. The real, token gay couple lives a few houses down. Just your average suburban neighborhood. Mid life crises are not funny, and it is too bad that director Sam Mendes did not help Lester deal with his in an interesting or compelling way.

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