Family Film Review of the American Beauty

Why do some people find American Beauty disturbing?

American Beauty is the first Sam Menders’ feature film that focuses on such ideas as love (paternal and romantic), beauty, materialism and sexuality. It shows all the problems which Lester Burnham faces (Kevin Spacey). Lester is a 42 years old man, who is afraid to become older. His wife Caroline (Annette Bening) ignores him and his daughter Jane (Thora Birch) doesn’t love him. They think Lester is a chronic loser. “I’ll be dead in a year,” – his constant thought at the beginning of the movie.

“In a way, I’m dead already.” The movie is the story of his awakening. Lester’s world rolls upside down the day he meets Angela (Mena Suvari), his daughter’s classmate. It is wrong and amoral for a man in his early 40s. And this theme disturbs the society. But why people think that such kind of Lester’s behavior is disturbing or uncomfortable?

From the very first scene we realize that the Burnhams are in a loveless marriage. All they need is to change their life. And being affected by young and beautiful teenage-girl, Lester does foolish things. He lost everything on his way to happiness.

I think American Beauty is not cruel or uncomfortable. Yes, there are some sexual scenes, but this movie is not about depravity as one may think. It is about our loneliness, depression and struggle. It shows us our life in general with all the joy and love, and even passion we feel for others. All the dialogues and actions rise questions about the real beauty. Beauty can lead to happiness, if it is true beauty. So, why it must disturb us in what way we are looking for it?


American Beauty (1999) Film review; Dad’s dead, and he is still a funny guy. By Janet Maslin Published: September 15, 1999.

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