The American suburbs are supposed to reflect the ideal life. A husband and wife, 2.5 kids, a dog perhaps, all behind a white picket fence.
That image, like all mirages is a fake.
The 1999 film American Beauty, revealed what really happens behind closed doors in suburbia. And it is not always pretty.
Lester and Carolyn Burnham (Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening) appear to be the ideal married couple. Their teenaged daughter, Jane (Thora Birch) appears to be the average teenage girl. But appearances are deceiving. Carolyn is having an affair. Lester, in the midst of a midlife crisis, is simultaneously depressed and attracted to his daughter’s best friend, Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari).
While her parent’s are going through their crisis, Jane is going through one herself. She is spending more of her time with Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) the mysterious boy next door who is being physically abused by his father, Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper).
This movie was one of the best movies of 1999 for a reason. This dark dramedy reveals what life is truly like and who we truly are when we take down the mask and reveal our true selves.
Over a period of about one year, Hollywood released two different adaptations with two different casts. Both were based on the original novel.
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
The Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) is a widowed aristocrat. She and the Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont (John Malkovich) are playing a dangerous game.
Valmont gets off on seducing women. The Marquise makes him a bet. If Valmont can seduce the teenaged Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman), she will invite him to her bed. While Cecile’s seduction is easy, the challenge is Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), a married woman whose husband is away at court.
Stepping into the same roles a year later was Annette Bening as the Marquise, Colin Firth as Valmont, Meg Tilly as Madame de Tourvel and Fairuza Balk as Cecile.
In this case, I like both movies. I like them both because they prove that when someone has too much money, power and time on their hands, trouble is bound to happen.