Worth A Look: 13.73%
Pretty Bad: 4.48%
Total Crap: 3.43%
30 reviews, 490 user ratings
There's a line from the stage production "Our Town" which is the response to a question about the truly important things in life. It's been over 20 years since I've seen this play, so the exact dialogue is fuzzy, but the conversation is focused on appreciating the value of relationships, seemingly mundane activities and life itself. One of the characters is ask, "Who among all mankind has a full appreciation and understanding of this truth ... knowing what's truly important?" The character's response refers to poets, among others, who truly have the courage, honesty, and introspection to clearly see what it's all about. Amen. Poets and good movie makers.Without getting on a soap box and without moralizing, here's a film which collectively slaps the audience up side the head. We are hit with a truth that is so obvious by the end of the film, that to document it here would be analogous to offering up the punch line before the joke is told.
"A poetic masterpiece cast over a suburban landscape."
YOU MUST SEE THIS FILM! The story is told with such poetic sensibility, that the entire experience becomes one in which you are afraid you might miss something important. Poets make every word and every line count. If you read too fast or let your mind wander for a second, you run the risk of losing out on something meaningful. YOU'LL WANT TO SEE THIS FILM AGAIN!
On the surface, the work offers nothing spectacular. Simply put, this movie portrays the struggles of an American suburban family. Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a prototype middle age man ready for the well documented mid-life crisis. Oscar nominee Annette Bening is his wife, Carolyn.
This is a funny movie. In my first viewing, I sat in a theatre filled to capacity. Although I usually prefer having the room to myself, in this case it was delightful and revealing to listen to how the audience laughed. You can learn a lot about people by observing what they think is humorous.
This movie is funny, though, not because of situations. It's funny because the situations shown are true. Life in the end is not what we wish it to be or hope it might be. Life is what it IS. And it's not always pretty. Or is it always pretty? If there's any debate at all in this production, that's it. Is life beautiful or ugly?
Much of the action is shown at the Burnham's dining room table. The dialogue is so well written and the performances so realistic, you might swear you have seen this all before. You might have the feeling that this is one screwed up family, until you meet the new family moving in next door.
Chris Cooper does a wonderful job as Marine Col. Fitts. His door mat wife is Allison Janey and his kind hearted, film making son is done by Wes Bentley. Outwardly, Col. Fitts is a rigid, hard nosed, kind of a dad. Ricky respects him because if he doesn't, he'll get his assed kicked. But look closer. Look closer at Col. Fitts and every character you see in this movie.
Much of this movie is filmed with an expensive home movie camera. Ricky Fitts films people and things because they are "interesting and beautiful". Ricky has an entire room filled with audio and video tapes and equipment. He can afford all of this gear because he's a drug dealer. However, if you allow yourself to become sucked into the idea that Ricky is no count because he sells weed, you might miss the point.
The character Ricky Fitts and his video camera offer another view of life that many of us might miss if we don't start paying attention. Ricky sees beauty in the dance of a white bag floating to and fro in the breeze saying it's the most beautiful thing he's ever filmed. Ricky in fact is interested and finds beauty in nearly everything. Although Ricky peddles marijuana and appears to have problems, he's the most grounded and realistic character in the entire movie.
Lester and Carolyn are quite another thing. They spend their lives desperately searching. Since they don't know what they are searching for, in all liklihood, they will live the rest of their lives never finding it ... even though it's closer than they might ever imagine. Instead of beauty, they see ugliness and pain.
Kevin Spacey's talent has been well documented. Like all superb actors, Spacey has the knack of drawing us in with subtle gestures. With the twinkle in his eye, the twitch of his cheek or the almost imperceptible droop of of his lower lip, he's conveyed a world of emotion. He doesn't have to scream like a banshee or contort his face grotesquely to get the message through.
Director Sam Mendes employs the over used film narrative approach. Spacey carries this out with tremendous effect. When I refer to this film as "poetic", part of what I have in mind is this narrative. You must pay attention. In fact, the film ends with the last of Lester Burnham's narrative. This last narrative segment is one of the truly great moments in film making history. It is so true, so compelling and so powerful, that the audience doesn't know what to do or say. Dead silence.
I thought it was 15 seconds. I timed it in my second viewing. It was only 4 seconds ... just seemed longer. And before the credits roll, Mendes leaves the audience with that dead air and black screen. Nothing happens for that 4 seconds except for audience to dwell on the raw truth. Whoa. What a movie!!!One of the reasons this is such a realistic movie is because the film makers avoid the easy trap of coloring characters all black or white. The naked truth is that none of us are all good or all bad. Good and bad are really not explored to any great extent, at least in an overt way. More so, this movie is about our perceptions. Are we viewing our world and the life we live in the most beneficial way? What's it all about? Only your poet knows for sure.
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originally posted: 10/07/99 16:18:50