In what has been described as "The Ice Storm plus Lolita," the semi-noir "American Beauty" looks to be one of the year's most serious and complicated films. It stars Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey, and Annette Bening, along with Mena Suvari of "American Pie," and newcomer Thora Birch.
Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a media reporter in an "average suburban neighborhood," married to real estate agent Carolyn, Annette Bening. However, their situation soon becomes anything but average. Burnham is sleepwalking through his mediocre life until one day he notices his teenage daughter's friend, Angela, played by Suvari. ( Perhaps we should say here that the movie has an introductory voice-over informing us that Burnham will be dead within a year – he just doesn't know it yet.)
When Burnham meets Angela, he suddenly wakes up; she has that effect on him. At first, he simply is content to fantasize about her. But, a fantasy is not enough. He quits his job, starts pumping iron, and begins smoking some of his teenage next door neighbor's excellent quality pot. He somehow thinks all this activity might put the magic back in his own marriage to Carolyn, but Carolyn, having an affair of her own, doesn't seem to notice.
First-time director Sam Mendes made a name for himself on Broadway recently with the revival of "Cabaret," and his direction of "American Beauty" is described as "dazzling."
The movie is rated "R" for strong sexuality, language, violence and drug content.

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