American Beauty (1999)

Great but not *that* great.  The strengths of this likely (art?) 
crowd-pleasing pitch-black comedy include command performances by 
Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, a never-quite-predictable plot, a 
bonafide murder mystery in there as well, at least a dozen side-
splitting laughs, and a bright, brilliant rainbow of raw emotions.  
Lust, rage, shame, scorn-- it's all there, man.  The big downside-- 
other than gray-locked Peter Gallagher's weak take on Bening's 
character's real-estate rival-- is the persistently... stagy feel 
to nearly every scene.  The emotions feel real; the acting is con-
fident, and yet... the scenes and circumstances that contain them 
never feel genuine enough.  Well, okay, save for a sweaty, rain-
soaked confrontation at the end, and one utterly unexpected roman-
tic outcome.  Gotta think on this one some more.  And probably see 
it a second time...  With Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, 
Allison Janney, Scott Bakula, Sam Robards, and in what must be the 
scariest role of his career, Chris Cooper.  (Rated "R"/120 min.)

Grade: B+

Copyright 1999 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: October 3, 1999

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