American Beauty

American Beauty ★★★★½

There’s nothing worse in life than being ordinary.

As much as I had heard great things about this movie, I never wanted to give it the time of day. It always had this sense of grime to it in my mind, especially with Kevin Spacey front and center. But what I had failed to consider were the deeper meanings in the somewhat simple and disturbing idea of a man infatuated with his daughter’s best friend.

American Beauty amazingly and casually touches on an array of specific yet universally important topics: the normalcy of objectification in the media, the broken dynamic of the upper-middle class suburban family, and most especially the need for validation as a young girl, and the willingness to get that validation from anywhere.

So many of these scenes hit painfully close to home. That pressure to not let oneself cry,
and instead to move on with work, is so amazingly portrayed in Annette Bening’s performance. Anyone watching this at face value will see Lester as liberated; a deeper look will find an empty man living vicariously through his young acquaintance, Ricky. And yet you can’t really seem to pick one or the other to root for - not a single person in this movie is inherently good or evil

Every plot line in this story is complex and tangled and realistic in an acutely personal way - this movie is so much more than what its selling point makes it out to be. The main idea, however, feels a lot more like Oedipus than anything else. It’s a self-fulfilled prophecy, something which we all know is bound to happen from the start and can only sit idly by and watch it spread out like wildfire. An ending which is raw and complete, yet leaves you to stare at the blank screen for a few minutes in processing.