If you though that America was weird, then your opinion will be reinforced
by this movie. A father has a crush on his daughter's friend (remember Poison
Ivy, the Drew Barrymore starrer?) and the girl falls for him; a guy sees
beauty in the most unlikely things and keeps filming them; and a wife and kid
are not averse to killing the man in their life. While these may sound absurd,
Sam Mendes has told it in a strangely refreshing manner. Yes, it really appears
strange at times.
The film begins with a girl yearning for a father who could be a role model.
Apparently her's is not, and she readily accepts her boyfriend's offer to kill
him. This is followed by a narration from Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), the
girl's father, introducing himself and proclaiming that next year he's going
to be dead.
This brings us to his family, which has to be the most dysfunctional family
on screen ever. He and his wife Caroline (Annette Bening) haven't had sex for
months, and all their conversations are tongue-in-cheek. Their daughter, Jane
(Thora Birch), is not chuffed by her parents' attitude in general, and her father's
Things go further downhill when Lester has a crush on his daughter's school
friend, Angela (Mena Suvari) - an incurable coquette. His virility is now revived
and he does all sorts of eerie things. On the sidelines is the Burnhams' neighbour,
Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley), who lives with his pedantic father. Ricky films Jane
from his window (unfortunately he films a lot more in the process), sells pot
to her father and ultimately manages to win her over.
Caroline is an ambitious woman who
doesn't think much of her husband and hates him once he resigns his job. She
ends up having an affair with a rival real-estate agent, Buddy Kane (Peter Gallagher)
- that in itself indicates her frustation. In the end, everyone has had enough
of Lester Burnhman and almost everyone is out to get him. It's all a matter
of who gets him first.
The film is very explicit in its
narration and that does well to bring out the irony as well as the absurdity
of the situations the characters get themselves into. The happenings onscreen
are supposed to be shocking and amusing at the same time and the only question
is if you can react in such a manner.
Kevin Spacey performs with sole emphasis on the caustic nature of his character,
although he does bring out the disinterestedness too. Annette Bening is a little
too loud when compared to the rest of the cast, and a bit grotesque as well.
Wes Bentley is the surprise package here. He has a character that is quiet and
yet very discerning, and Wes portrays that with all the subtlety it warrants.
Mena Suvari looks sexy throughout, but it is only in a scene towards the end
that she really excels. Conceding one's insecurities can be a tough job, and
she does it well.