STUDIO: DreamWorks/Paramount | DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes | CAST: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, Wes Bentley
RELEASE DATE: 9/21/2010 | PRICE: Blu-ray $29.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurette, storyboards
SPECS: R | 122 min. | drama | 2.35:1 | 5.1 DTS-HD audio | English, French, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles
Starring Kevin Spacey (Se7en) as a middle-age suburban husband with a dead-end job and estranged wife and daughter, the movie offers a riveting look at the degradation of a family as one man tries to wake up his life. The performances are superb, also including Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right) as Spacey’s over-bearing but ultimately insecure wife, Thora Birch (Winter of Frozen Dreams) as their coming-of-age daughter and Mena Suvari (American Pie) as Birch’s friend and Spacey’s object of lust.
Also great are the next-door neighbors: son Wes Bentley (Jonah Hex) who runs a profitable drug business away from his father’s prying eyes, father Chris Cooper (The Town) whose military training feeds all his relationships and mother Allison Janney (Juno) whose years of abuse have left her one step up from comatose.
With the cinematography of the legendary Conrad L. Hall, Mendes’ usual man behind the cameras who was profiled on the Road to Perdition Blu-ray, the movie provides brilliant images that look all the more amazing in high-definition. That’s not to say this is a perfect transfer. A few dust bunnies are visible, especially in the opening scene. But the red rose petals surrounding Suvari show even the velvety texture of the flowers.
Although this release is in Paramount’s Sapphire Series line, there are no new special features. The included commentary with Mendes and screenwriter Alan Ball, featurette “American Beauty: Look Closer…” and storyboard presentation with Mendes and Hall were all also included on the special edition DVD of American Beauty released in 2000.
That’s not necessarily a drawback, as these extras are top notch. The entertaining “Look Closer” featurette includes interviews with Mendes, Ball and the stars, among others, talking about their early impressions of the film and its subsequent Academy Awards (Spacey as Best Actor, Hall’s cinematography, Mendes’ direction, Ball’s screenplay and Best Picture).
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