‘American Beauty’ is belle of ball

Aud raves over sex, highs and videotape

Sept. 8’s preem of DreamWorks’ “American Beauty” at the Egyptian got a phenomenal response: 35 seconds of sustained applause with cheers and whistles, then the audience stayed to applaud each acting credit.

“This is the best movie of the year, so far,” said Lawrence Bender.

All this for a film whose plot points include $2,000-an-ounce pot, self-help tapes, Nazi dinnerware, video voyeurism, trade paper reporting, middle-age angst, weight-lifting, the Marine Corps, fast-food restaurants, adultery, a 1970 Pontiac Firebird and rose petals.

To call it “sex, highs and videotape” hardly does it justice. It’s more “Rushmore” directed by John Updike.

“What’s frightening is the film doesn’t fit on a shelf in the video store,” director Sam Mendes says. “And people stop making movies because they don’t fit on a shelf in the video store. We made this for $15 million. If it had been $30 million, no one would have made it.”

Among those on hand were stars Annette Bening, Kevin Spacey, Thora Birch and Wes Bentley; Bob Cooper, John Fogelman, Joanne Horowitz, John Burnham, John Baldecchi and Beth Swofford.