Home > Film, Opinions (Film) > Film: 30 Movies in 30 Days: Day 11

Film: 30 Movies in 30 Days: Day 11

This post is part of a month-long project, answering thirty topics about movies over thirty days. The subject for the eleventh day is:

A movie that changed your opinion about something

This one was easy:

American Beauty

American Beauty

(Again there’s no source as I took this screencap myself due to a lack of large images for most of the non-Angela scenes)

When I mentioned two days ago that this film would be appearing again I didn’t realise it would be so soon, but for me it fits the topic more than any other film. I’m guessing that technically this topic is about a film changing your mind about something because of its subject, like maybe having Bowling For Columbine make you rethink your position on gun rights or The Laramie Project for gay rights, but American Beauty did something slightly different for me.

Prior to watching it I had mostly watched kids movies when young, moving onto action movies, comedies and sci-fi into my teenage years, and for me that was the extent of what movies had to offer. I had no interest in what I’d assumed were dull films about real life or relationships, and a film about suburban life wasn’t on my radar at all. That changed on the 22nd October 1999 when I went to the cinema with a group of friends only for us to discover we’d got the showing times wrong and the film we’d gone to see wasn’t on (I don’t even remember what it was now). American Beauty was brought up as something with maybe some dark comedy to it and, with nothing else to watch, that’s what we went to see.

The film, of course, turned out to be excellent. After some narration where Kevin Spacey’s character, Lester Burnham, announces he’ll be dead within in a year, it runs through his miserable life, with a houseproud wife, Caroline, who tries to keep everything perfect at home but has no real connection with him any more, and his insecure teenage daughter Jane, who thinks he’s a complete loser. None of the three actually like one another and Lester feels utterly worn down by it (“sedated”, in his words).

While attending his daughter’s cheerleading performance he sees her friend Angela and something awakens in him that’s been dormant for a long time. Not just lust (though that’s part of it), but the idea that he doesn’t have to just accept that his life is all but over, and he sets about changing things and chasing his dreams. It’s not just about Lester either and his family are more than just the things wearing him down. Caroline is just as frustrated and unhappy as Lester, struggling in her real estate business  to compete with her rival Buddy Kane, while Jane is insecure about her appearance and worried about being ordinary, and they both steadily work through their issues as Lester does.

I was riveted throughout the whole thing and for me it demonstrated how much more films have to offer than just laughs and spectacle, opening up the whole range of cinema to me. So American Beauty is a film that completely changed my opinion about films, and I’ll always love it for that (in addition to it being a brilliant film).

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