American Beauty

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -4

Carolyn Burnham (Annette Bening) desperately tries to project a "perfect" image of herself, her husband, Lester (Kevin Spacey), and their teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch). But in the opening scene we learn Jane hates her parents, especially her dad, who openly lusts after her best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari). Lesters misery turns to drug-induced euphoria when 17-year-old Ricky (Wes Bentley), his next door neighbor, begins supplying him with marijuana. Lester quits his job, dares Carolyn to leave him, and openly pursues the flirtatious Angela. Carolyn begins an adulterous affair, and Jane turns to sex and Ricky. AMERICAN BEAUTY is receiving critical acclaim, but most agree that it is very disturbing. In fact, it will break your heart. Every character suffers from emotional isolation that eventually destroys two families. Think twice about seeing this film billed as a "comedy/drama."

Many of the laughs come from Lesters sexual frustration manifested by comments about graphic self-gratification and his fantasizing over Angela. He imagines her nude, covered with red rose petals. Although he never consummates his fantasy, there is a scene of them together with breast nudity. One graphic sex scene between Carolyn and her lover in a motel is particularly offensive. Ricky and Jane become sexually involved and are shown lying together with rear male nudity. Rickys militant father, an ex-Marine (Chris Cooper), rules his house with violent discipline. Ricky deceives his father by submitting false urine samples each month because of earlier drug problems. But the boy still suffers painful beatings when Ricky breaks one of his fathers many rules. The films final scene shows blood splattered on a wall, the result of a violent killing. Much drug use by Lester, the teenage girls and Ricky is treated neutrally. Added to this abundantly offensive film are 44 obscenities and eight regular profanities. There is nothing beautiful about AMERICAN BEAUTY. It offers no solution and no hope.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
DreamWorks SKG, 100 Universal Plaza, Bldg. 477, Universal City, CA 90048

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (15) timesMild 3, Moderate 12

Obscene Language: Many (44) times (f word 23, s word 9, other 12)

Profanity: Many (13) timesRegular 8 (J 4, G 1, GD 1, C 2), Exclamatory 5

Violence: Few timesSevere and Moderate (mother slaps daughter, father beats son twice, off-screen killing with blood-splattered scene)

Sex: Once (graphic, no nudity); Implied once (teenagers in bed, rear male nudity)

Nudity: Few times (obscured rear male in shower, rear male in bedroom scene, female breast nudity twice); Near Nudity few times (nude girl covered with rose petals)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Many times (references to being aroused and self-gratification; man begins undressing teenager, fantasies of older man seducing teenager)

Drugs: Many times (teenagers smoke pot; teenager sells drugs; man high on drugs continuously; social drinking; woman drunk)

Other: Teenager deceives father with false urine sample; lack of family values; disrespect for elders

Running Time: 122 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.