"American Beauty" written by Alan Ball, directed by Sam Mendes
Watched again, 15 years later, the film has made the same impression on me as it did the first time. And the impressions have been huge. Almost a perfect masterpiece. The confusions (in both viewings) came from the video parts, which were taking me out of the flow of the film.
Down deep, the film seems to be a pretty much a loose connection of haiku like epiphanies circling around not beauty, not values, not culture - but rather around transformation, overcoming, transcending. It is not the development of the plot (although there is one) that drives the experience of watching the film. It is rather, the emotional impact of most of the scenes. As if the brilliance of the execution sidetracked the underlying intellectual efforts to convey meaning through the story.
Every major character in the story is on a wild inner ride. Everyone except Ricky, the kid next door, who is the only smart one, or the only fully realized from the start. And it is probably through Ricky’s weed that Lester finally breaks through his inner walls. Ricky’s presence seems to carry the “official” meaning of the film - the beauty in the mundane - as in the plastic bag. While the idea is noble, the execution seems problematic. The plastic bag is videotaped in a pedestrian way while the everyday life which is supposed to be criticized gets dazzling directorial and cinematographic treatment. This contrast is something I wonder about. From a logical point of view the stylistic choices for showing both realities are correct, but their juxtaposition rises questions.