American Beauty (1999)
|Directed by||Sam Mendes|
|Written by||Alan Ball|
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
|Cinematography||Conrad L. Hall|
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures|
|Box office||$356.3 million|
American Beauty is a 1999 American drama film directed by Sam Mendesand written by Alan Ball. Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, a 42-year-old advertising executive who has a midlife crisis when he becomes infatuated with his teenaged daughter’s best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari).Annette Bening co-stars as Lester’s materialistic wife, Carolyn, and Thora Birch plays their insecure daughter, Jane. Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper, andAllison Janney also feature. The film is described by academics as a satire ofAmerican middle-class notions of beauty and personal satisfaction; analysis has focused on the film’s explorations of romantic, and paternal love, sexuality, beauty, materialism, self-liberation, and redemption.
Ball began writing American Beauty as a play in the early 1990s, partly inspired by the media circus around the Amy Fisher trial in 1992. He shelved the play after realizing the story would not work on stage. After several years as a television screenwriter, Ball revived the idea in 1997 when attempting to break into the film industry. The modified script had a cynical outlook that was influenced by Ball’s frustrating tenures writing for several sitcoms. ProducersDan Jinks and Bruce Cohen took American Beauty to DreamWorks; the then-fledgling film studio bought Ball’s script for $250,000, outbidding several other production bodies. DreamWorks financed the $15 million production and served as its North American distributor. American Beauty marked acclaimed theater director Mendes’ film debut; courted after his successful productions of the musicals Oliver! and Cabaret, Mendes was, nevertheless, only given the job after 20 others were considered and several “A-list” directors turned down the opportunity.