As much as I enjoyed the movie, I am a little embarrassed to admit I did not follow the movie through and through. As the credits begin to roll down on the black screen, my mind was still struggling to recapitulate the gist of the movie. I somehow felt let-down by the ending of this superbly intricate and involving drama. On some level I desired something more from the climax, on another I can’t think of an appropriate ending on my own.

Sam Mendes’ directorial Debut, American beauty portrays the life and challenges of an American household and the dark side of the culture where your outward projection matters the most. He achieves the desired effect through a number of characters as they interact with each other and face internal conflicts. American Beauty is a character-dominant and dialogue driven movie, these elements forming the heart and soul of the film.

We have 42 yr old Lester Burnham played by Kevin Spacey whose only high time of the day is when he jerks off in his shower. His wife Carolyn (Annette Burnham) and his daughter Jane (Thora Birch) despise him and treat him as non-existent. Carolyn spends all her efforts and energy in creating and portraying a thriving and up-class image, whereas Jane is a usual girl passing through the teenage phase with fear and uncertainties, who finds herself utterly unattractive and loathes her parents and their constant bickering. Their just arrived neighbors are Col. Fitts of US Marine corps who lives his life by rules and disciplines, his lifeless wife who lives like a vegetable and their teenage son Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) who lives under strict scrutiny of his father, works as a drug-dealer and loves to film everything that he finds appealing and beautiful.

As Lester’s lackluster life gets even more disastrous on account of being fired and as he fights to take a decision, he meets Jane’s teenage friend Angela (Mena Suvari) who plays the Lolita in Lester’s sex-starved life.  With Angela as the catalyst, Lester begins to bring a series of small and then major changes in his life and his life-style. Lester quits his job along with a hefty settlement on the threat of blackmailing, takes a job with least responsibilities at a burger joint, begins to work-out to get back into good physique and shape, makes a manly arrival on his home-front and he actually begins to enjoy his life alone.

As Carolyn strives to present an image of success and perfection, she meets somebody just like her and falls for him, leading to an affair. Ricky and Jane, two damaged and deserted teenagers find solace in each other’s company and plan to flee in order to start a new life. Col. Fitts, too scared to express his true-self, lives a double-faced life and Angela, too scared to be ordinary, pretends to be someone she is not.

As all these characters with their complex nature and problems intertwine, we witness their quest for beauty and happiness in their lives and their final outcomes in the face of adverse situations.

American beauty is a beautiful depiction of the impact of the societal norms on humans and their relations. How Jane becomes a damaged child because of non-attentive parents and how Ricky makes devious arrangements to escape his father’s vigilant eyes. How Angela becomes an element of desire for Lester and how he comes out of his fanciful thoughts. The movie gives us some of the most thought-provoking one-lines for the audience – “Never underestimate the power of denial” “It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.” are a few to mention.

Along with the complexity that the movie showcases, it has as much element of humor (though dark !!!)  in the screenplay through its well-played and well-timed dialogues.  At no time, the movie becomes too serious or grim for the audience to enjoy it. Kevin Spacey is actually at his best with his humorous lines and amazing acting. Neither can you neglect any other character and their performance in the film.

I do not intend to be a spoiler here but I can’t resist from saying that the ending of the movie is what intrigued as well as disappointed me the most. Why did the movie end like this? What exactly is the director’s message behind such end? And the fact that I feel I am the only one asking these questions, definitely means I have missed some critical aspect of the movie. Add to that, why did the colonel kill Lester? Probably he saw the video made by his son, or he blamed him for his son’s behavior, more so he believed him to be a pedophile or probably because Lester learned the truth about the colonel. Add to that, I am sure I missed something in this movie that others did not.

A winner of 5 Oscars (Best actor in leading role – Kevin Spacey, Best cinematographer, Best Director –Sam Mendes, Best picture and best screenplay) and various other awards, the movie is definitely a must watch for its satirical, dark comedy wrapped screenplay and the perfect well-selected cast. Having said that, do I call it a flawless piece of work? Well, I doubt that….