American BeautyDreamworks (Blu-ray)
Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man in his mid-40s going through an intense midlife crisis; he's grown cynical and is convinced that he has no reason to go on. Lester's relationship with his wife Carolyn is not a warm one; while on the surface Carolyn strives to present the image that she's in full control of her life, inside she feels empty and desperate. Their teenage daughter Jane is constantly depressed, lacking in self-esteem, and convinced that she's unattractive. Her problems aren't helped by her best friend Angela, an aspiring model who is quite beautiful and believes that that alone makes her a worthwhile person. Jane isn't the only one who has noticed that Angela is attractive: Lester has fallen into uncontrollable lust for her, and she becomes part of his drastic plan to change his body and change his life. Meanwhile, next door, Colonel Fitts has spent a lifetime in the Marine Corps and can understand and tolerate no other way of life, which makes life difficult for his son Ricky, an aspiring filmmaker and part-time drug dealer who is obsessed with beauty, wherever and whatever it may be.
Paramount continues their Sapphire series with this Oscar gem and the Blu-ray presentation is pretty solid. This was never what I would call a gorgeous film, but the natural lighting and moody cinematography holds up pretty well on Blu-ray. Detail is a bit wanting at times and I did notice some slight edge enhancement but neither overly distracts from the film. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and I’ve always been a fan of the film’s score and its affect on the message of the film. Surround use may be minimal but the moody atmosphere of the mix still delivers the natural tension and depression of the film’s themes.
Extras are a bit slim in my opinion, especially for a film that did so well with the critics and audiences. You get a feature commentary with the director plus a behind the scenes look at the production and film. A storyboard feature is also included along with the trailers.
Mendes hit a home run with his freshmen effort. The film’s themes hit home pretty hard with America and were later hit upon again in Fincher’s darker Fight Club. I was hoping for a bit more substance from the extras but overall this is still a film worth adding to any collection.