Reviewed by: Ken James
2 hr. 2 min.
Year of Release:
September 15, 1999
Lust in the Bible
Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer
What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer
TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer
Unhappy and dysfunctional marriage
Marriage in the Bible
Is formalized marriage becoming obsolete? Answer
Should I save sex for marriage? Answer
My boyfriend wants to have sex. I don’t want to lose him. What should I do? Answer
How can I deal with temptations? Answer
How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer
What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer
I just found out I’m pregnant and I’m not married. What should I do?
Abortion / Pro-life topic index
Personal stories from women dealing with unplanned pregnancies, abortion, medical complications during pregnancy, and more…
GAY—What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
What about gays needs to change? Answer
Read stories about those who have struggled with homosexuality
“American Beauty” is the winner of several Oscars from 1999. Critics worldwide have praised this film for its technical expertise and great storytelling. From the acting to script to musical score to message, it is true that there is much to appreciate technically, but “American Beauty” cannot be recommended due to its graphically offensive content.
Meet Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a middle aged man appearing on the outside to live a normal American suburban life. But as we hear in his voice overs and learn as the story progresses, his life is far from normal. He starts his day with masturbation in the shower, giving us the impression that perhaps things are not normal in his marital relationship. (The scene is clouded by the shower door). We see his real-estate-agent wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) in an over-the-fence friendly chat with the neighbors, two gentlemen who happen to be homosexual live-in partners. Again, not normal. And while Lester, Carolyn and only-child Jane (Thora Birch) live in the same home, there is really no relationship between any of them.
Lester and Carolyn attend a high school game where Jane is on the cheerleading squad. That’s where it happens: Lester becomes transfixed with Jane’s cheerleading girlfriend Angela (Mena Suvari). Here begins his fantasies that lead to major life changes: quitting his job, blackmailing his boss, working out, buying a new muscle car, taking drugs, and learning from a new high schooler neighbor how to tell people off and stand up for oneself. While it is commendable that Lester is trying to make some life changes and awaken from the deadness of his life, it is at the further alienation of his wife and daughter. Of course, Caryolyn isn’t too focused on Lester right now since she begins a short-lived sexual affair with a business competitor (played by Peter Gallagher). As for Lester’s daughter, she is sickened by her father’s infatuation with her friend but becomes so absorbed in her odd relationship with the new next door neighbor whom she uses to further try to pull herself out of the shell she knows as life.
“American Beauty” contains profanity, violence, drug use, sexual situations (including homosexuality, situations between a teen girl and middle aged man, and more), nudity (male backside, plus two topless scenes), and other offensive material.
This is not a happy movie; disturbing would be a better description. As a follower of Christ, I can’t help but look at this family, and especially at Lester, as someone desperately searching for meaning in life. That meaning is found through Jesus Christ, who sets us free from the bondage of sin and death. As King Solomon points out in Ecclesiastes so clearly, all other worldly pursuits are merely a “chasing after the wind.” While “American Beauty” is technically exceptional, its offensive material outweighs any redeeming values.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.