American Beauty: The Awards Edition on DVD

Vanessa Forsythe reviews

American Beauty:
The Awards EditionLook closer


  • Cert: R
  • 83852
  • Running time: 122 minutes
  • Year: 1999
  • Pressing: 2000
  • Region(s): 1, NTSC
  • Chapters: 28 plus extras
  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround
  • Languages: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Widescreen: 2.35:1
  • 16:9-Enhanced: No
  • Macrovision: Yes
  • Disc Format: DVD 9
  • Price: $39.98
  • Extras : Exclusive Behind the Scenes Featurette; Commentary by Director SamMendes & Writer Alan Ball; Exclusive Storyboard Presentation with Commentaryby Director and Director of Photography Conrad L. Hall; Cast & CrewBiographies; 2 Theatrical Trailers; Production Notes & Bonus DVD-ROMfeatures including Digital Screenplay with corresponding film footage andstoryboards.


      Sam Mendes


      Lester Burnham: Kevin Spacey
      Carolyn Burnham: Annette Bening
      Jane Burnham: Thora Birch
      Angela Hayes: Mena Suvari
      Ricky Fitts: Wes Bentley
      Colonel Fitts: Chris Cooper
      Barbara Fitts: Allison Janney
      Buddy Kane: Peter Gallagher
      Jim Olmeyer: Scott Bakula
      Jim Berkley: Sam Robards

    “Ah, whose car is that out front?”
    “Mine, 1970 Pontiac Firebird, the car I’ve always wanted and now I have it.I rule”

Lester Burnhamis a burnt out, unhappy 42-year old, who feels smothered bythe constraints of his marriage, his job – even his whole life. His wife isgrowing ever more distant and seems to find one of her real estatecompetitors much more interesting. His daughter Jane thinks her father is afreak because he finds himself attracted to her coquettish best friend. Newneighbours have moved in next door and the son of the family seems to have astrange fascination with videotaping everything he sees…

Soon, Lester begins to realize that life does have meaning after all; he’djust forgotten what it was all about and slowly he shapes his life into theway he wants it to be, regardless of society and its constraints, real orperceived.

American Beauty is about the search for meaning and beauty, how it is nevertoo late to rediscover a zest for life. An extremely moving and often veryfunny film, it is a triumph for first time film director, Sam Mendes, whosebackground in theatre has obviously served him well.

The film 0f 1999 for me, American Beauty went on to win 5 Academy Awardsincluding Best Picture, Best Director and an extremely deserved Best Actorgong for Kevin Spacey and it appeared on over 200 Top 10 lists for the year.A fantastic script, superb direction and flawless performances, across theboard, American Beauty is a triumph of latter-day filmmaking.


  • Commentary: enjoyable and informative, Sam Mendes is quite happy to admithis inexperience in directing for film and points out many scenes where hewould change something. Alan Ball takes a back seat and allows Mendes to waxlyrical about the film. The only disappointment here is only indirectlylinked to the commentary: Mendes frequently makes reference to scenes thatended up on the cutting room floor and says we will see what he means “inthe out-takes”, the only problem being that there are no deleted scenes.
  • Behind the Scenes Featurette: 21 mins, interviews with all the cast andfilmmakers including Mr. Spielberg. Fairly standard, but well done.
  • Storyboard Presentation: 60 mins, a fascinating insight into how the 2dimensional ideas from a storyboard shape the 3-D image committed tocelluloid.
  • Cast & Crew Biogs: Standard biogs and selected filmographies for allabove-mentioned cast and main crew.
  • Trailers: both fabulous, reminded me of why I was so desperate to see thefilm in the first place.
  • Production Notes: Fairly standard, a lot of repetition from the featurette.
  • DVD-ROM features: well, as I don’t have a DVD-ROM, I don’t know, if anyonehas seen these features, let me know.

    …But where are the deleted scenes?

With Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 and the fab option of DTS, the sound onthis disc is top notch, dialogue is clear and the excellent soundtrackblasts out.Vibrant and clear, the picture is exceptional, just check out that scenewith the plastic bag and the leaves to see how crystal clear the coloursare.

A fantastic disc. If you haven’t got it already, buy it now, because afterall there’s no guarantee that these fabulous special features will cross theAtlantic and survive the transfer to Region 2.


Review copyright © Vanessa Forsythe, 2000.E-mail Vanessa Forsythe

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