Monday, May 29, 2006

American Beauty (1999)

Lester Burnham does not go quietly into his midlife crisis, shucking his career as a Corporate Cog of some description for a gig as a fry jockey at the local Smiley's burger joint. Meanwhile, his emasculating wife Carolyn begins a robust affair with a fellow real estate mogul after sharing the libidinous joys of the local firing range. Ricky, the creepy new boy next door, a kind of video camera-wielding Eddie Haskell on Prozac, leverages the true counterforce for change, slow-burn seducing Lester's disaffected daughter Jane on the one hand, becoming Lester's life coach-slash-pot dealer with the other. Ultimately, however, it's Ricky's father, Marine colonel Frank, who knows the secret of the crying game. Alan Ball's prequel to Six Feet Under (it's true -- look closely for the cameo by Fisher & Sons...) is an effective blend of Death of a Salesman and Lolita (with just a pinch of Sunset Boulevard thrown in for good measure). While we're on the subject, I had a friend a while back who, whenever spotting an empty plastic grocery sack snared and tumbling in the wind, would say, "It's tough to be a bag." Hard to argue, I suppose.

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