By Owen Gleiberman
Updated September 24, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

A variation on the ominous Pop-art suburbia of Blue Velvet and The Truman Show. Lester and Carolyn Burnham (Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening) are your basic, everyday miserable middle-class couple. At a high school basketball game, Lester catches sight of a dirty-delectable cheerleader, and something in him snaps. He decides to abandon everything he has for the chance to sleep with that girl. Spacey makes Lester ironically jaunty about his own unhappiness; the character is like a suburban Travis Bickle — off his rocker but happy about it. American Beauty has an entrancing surface, yet by the time the movie reaches its ”dark” resolution, it feels pat and preconceived. B+

American Beauty

  • Movie
  • R
  • 121 minutes
  • Sam Mendes