True American Beauty

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This was supposed to be out yesterday, but yesterday was for catching up with last week. OOPS. I hope you enjoy this. A brief chat about the movie “American Beauty” which I love. If you have time, I encourage you to watch it.

As always, this blog post contains tons of SPOILERS. Please read with caution.

One of my favorite movies of all time is American Beauty, which came out in 1999. Starring Kevin Spacey as a sexually-frustrated man on the verge of a mid-life crisis named Lester who finds himself attracted to his daughter’s promiscuous friend.

The movie carries through as Lester begins working out and smoking marijuana, quitting his corporate job and blackmailing his boss to in turn work at a fast food joint and trade in his family vehicle for a Firebird. He collapses into his mid-life crisis with all the gusto of a conductor in the midst of the encore. As he begins collapsing in on himself, his wife begins an affair with someone she knows from work, his daughter begins dating their neighbor who is raised by a hyper-strict militaristic man. The neighbor boy, Ricky, is a kid who films just about everything when he isn’t selling drugs to make money. On one of his trips to deliver pot to Lester, his father had found accidental footage of Lester working out in his garage while nude and it prompts Ricky’s father to investigate to decide if his son is gay or not. After Lester had found out about his wife’s affair, he reacted in a way that she did not expect, and her partner calls it off.

The movie runs to the climax as Ricky’s father is approaching to intercept Lester, then once arriving, kissing him instead. When Lester pushes him away, Ricky’s father runs away in tears. Meanwhile, Lester’s wife is seen holding a gun in her purse as Lester is approaching Angela, the promiscuous girl from earlier, who he has been entertaining sexual fantasies about.

Lester and Angela share a brief conversation, wherein Lester decides to stop pursuing her, the pair bond a bit before Angela retreats to the bathroom as Ricky and Lester’s daughter run away in the midst of a rainstorm. Lester’s wife, the puts a gun to the back of his head and shoots him. The movie ends with Lester giving a short monologue about life and what he had gone through, in the end saying that he is happy.

The reason I’m such a fan of this movie is because it isn’t afraid to depict the cruelties of life. Those things that nip at the back of your head that you are unwilling to admit to. The urge to throw away everything you’ve built and to start over. The urge to change yourself. To express yourself. To understand yourself. There are so many themes captured within this movie that it would take a month to go through them all, but in essence, I want to talk about the twists our lives take.

American Beauty is something I have heard a lot over the course of my life. Most often talking about girls or cars, it’s been used in my personal life to describe those things and more, such as the freedoms we hold and the ideals that we share.

It begs the question, even if for just a moment, we look at life outside of those ideals. You can do whatever you choose to in this place. Obviously within the confines of certain laws, but we are capable of so much. Yet as people, we crave more. We all do.

We are animals, after all. We beg and gnash our teeth to see and to experience things we are told we cannot do. Lust and greed and gluttony course through us every single day, and yet we still exist to show true passion and to be kind and to live a selfless existence.

What makes this movie poignant is the final line said by Lester, that “there is so much beauty in the world.” It’s sick, and it’s twisted, but it reminds me to find beauty in this life, even in the darkest, most broken moments.

if you enjoyed this or anything else i’ve written, please follow me on Twitter + Facebook @alvatobiasbooks

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