Director: Sam Mendes
Year Released: 2008
A weak attempt at analyzing the plight of freshly-mowed suburbia: office worker Leonardo DiCaprio is apparently content with working in NYC, bedding his demure secretary (Zoe Kazan) once in a while and earning promotions while his fanciful failed actress wife Kate Winslet wants to move to Paris and change their lives around. It's trapped in some cinematic purgatory between 50's recreation and modern fable, accomplishing neither - so many other movies speak much more eloquently about middle class malaise than this - for its faults, I think American Beauty happens to be one of them - and don't even require the inclusion of a 'mentally ill' character (a wild Michael Shannon) to act as the 'voice of reason' in two distinct scenes. This happens to be the second Winslet film of 2008 in which she commits suicide (in The Reader it was on purpose, here it's accidental), and nothing says Give Me Awards Now Please like playing unbalanced characters that rush headlong into self-negation.