Because of its blissful ignorance, American Beauty is a movie our culture can no longer afford to lionize. It’s a beautifully directed movie that romanticizes some of our country’s biggest problems: disregard for class struggle, the commoditization of female bodies, and an exploitative obsession with youth.

I remember experiencing the movie as a dark comedy exploring the emptiness at the heart of this man's life, precisely because it is built around these vacuous values and nothing else. He comes crashing up against the brick wall of the worthlessness of these American principles by which he has lived, and it leads to the slow inevitable wrecking of his and his familiy's life. I didn't see it as romanticizing this stuff at all; it was a painful two-hour sit among the awfulness and of it all and the claustrophobia of being unable to escape.

Actually I fairly often have this experience with American movies: I watch them as a black comedy about the unfolding of implicit despair in a misconceived life, and admire the grim determination with which the filmmaker forces us to sit and suffer along; yet the reviewers all claim that the film is glamourizing and celebrating the same lifestyle that I see as being portrayed in colours of simmering horror. Another example would be The Wolf Of Wall Street, which I enjoyed for similar reasons. It came as a complete surprise to see that reviewers thought the film actually advertised that lifestyle as attractive.

So I wonder: am I seeing things in American films that aren't there, or are the reviewers missing the appalled fixation of the filmmaker's stare? Do I project the existential desperation onto these movies or do the reviewers refuse to see it? Is there anything about these movies that glamourizes Lester Burnham or Jordan Belfort, other than the mere fact that these are movies and movies are reputed to be glamorous? I see disturbing explorations of the existential crisis we face when we finally realize pre-packaged morality can't help us, while reviewers seem to see straightforward celebrations of "bad men".

Oh well, any movie that's this ambiguous can't be all bad.

posted by user-inactivated: 1561 days ago