American Beauty
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

This is a very interesting movie. It has a great cast, very nice production values and even a good script.  However, even though it is meant to be a heart-breaking story, I really didn't care. I cry when I see Gap commercials, so it doesn't take much to choke me up. But I never came close during American Beauty.  Without giving anything away, since you find out in the first 5 seconds of the movie, this is the story of a man, played by Kevin Spacey, who is dead and is reviewing the last year of his life. He is very unhappy. He lives with his unhappy wife and unhappy teenage daughter.  He is unhappy in his marriage, unhappy at work, well you get the picture.  Anyway, this is the story of how he breaks out of that rut and becomes happy only, of course, to die.  But all of the characters in this movie are so predictable that you'll feel like you've met them many times before.
Kevin Spacey is fantastic. I'd be happy watching him do a dramatic reading of the Phonebook.  He is often forced to rise above his material.  Go see The Usual Suspects for a very satisfying experience.  He makes this movie interesting even though, as I said, I didn't really care what happened to him.  His daughter, (Thora Birch) and her boyfriend (Wes Bently) are both good and their relationship is the best thing in this movie besides Kevin Spacey.  Thora Birch was a little kid last time I saw her in the Tom Clancy movies, Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games. How quickly they grow up. Annette Bening is totally wasted as Kevin Spacey's hysterical, unhappy wife.  Unlike, the rest of the family, she has been stuck with a one-dimensional character and can't do much with it except cry and scream.  The neighbors, notably Chris Cooper and Scott Bakula, are good but you've seen them before too. This movie tries to create a complex web of relationships which lead to the inevitable end.   While this movie was trying to be sad but uplifting, I was noticing the director's cool shots and cuts.  Not a good sign. This movie has a lot of buzz and will probably be on many people's end of the year lists for Best Picture. Go and see it and decide for yourself. It didn't make my list.