While asking the question, “What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen”, American Beauty actually won a total of five Academy Awards including Best Picture for its incredibly unique answer to this most important question.
It was originally crafted for the stage by the writer Alan Ball who, while walking down the sidewalk in New York City, had seen a paper bag floating in the wind near the World Trade Center Plaza. He was inspired to write about it when he got home and this became the start of one of the greatest films ever made.
Ball’s inspiration became part of a short re-enactment and part of one of the films central lines made by Ricky Fitts (played by Wes Bentley) who says “Want to see the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life?” This beautiful thing turns out to be that fateful bag floating in the wind and the film itself and American Beauty turns out to be something quite unexpected and unique just like the paper bag which inspired it.
In fact, the uniqueness and non-conforming quality of the film itself is what made it so appealing to so many viewers. The film opens with some home video footage of a teenage girl lamenting her father’s unsuccessful role model status. The father is played by none other than Kevin Spacey who is both hilarious in his cynical role as well as thought-provoking in his reflective nature about life.
Throughout the film, Lester (played by Spacey) has fantasies involving a sexually aggressive 18 year old girl named Angela (played by Mena Suvari). Angela flirts with a nervous Lester only to aggravate Jane who is the daughter and competition for Angela. Annette Bening also plays the frustrated mother who strays from her marriage to and ultimately brings the film to its hilarious and tragic climax.
Looking back on the events of the movie, Lester summarizes all that he has experienced saying “ I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world.”
This is a film with a great message amidst an overwhelming amount of despair. American Beauty transforms the ugly and banal into the most beautiful thing you may ever see in your life.
Don’t miss this fantastic film and the opportunity to see life in a new way. American Beauty is certainly something to make you reconsider your own values and prospects for a beautiful life.