Next Nature Movie #5: American Beauty
During the selection of the top ten of next nature movies we’ve doubted quite a bit between the Truman Show (1998) and American Beauty (1999). The Truman Show tells the story of a man whose life is completely fake. The place he lives in is in fact one big studio with hidden cameras everywhere, and all his friends and people around him, are actors.
While the Truman Show is an iconic film that invites us to reflect on our media-choked environment, American Beauty goes one level deeper: similar to Truman, the characters in American Beauty are born inside a completely molded environment: Suburban Utopia. And although this setting, with its agreeable houses, cars, gardens and people, is designed to provide for every human need, something is somehow missing. American Beauty portrays a life too organized, too molded, too artificial, too plastic… and the nature within people that resists.
The main protagonist is Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a man in his mid-life crisis, whose life is turned upside down by a superficial crush on one of his teenage daughters friends. His wife Caroline (Annette Bening) has an obsession of her own; her public appearance. While their daughter Jane is rebelling against the hypocritical Ken en Barbie appearance of her parents.
Only Ricky Fits, the drug-dealing boy next door, is able to look beyond conventional notions of attractiveness and find beauty in non-promiscuous, solemn girls as well as in plastic bags floating in the wind. When many criticize the movie, they say, “Where’s the beauty in a plastic bag?” And that’s the point. Look closer.
American Beauty is a profound portrait of some of the issues many people in today’s Western world are struggling with: appearance, success, self-fulfillment, and the chances of getting to know your loved ones on a deeper level. It not only entertains while you’re watching it but also drops subtle questions in your head about the nature of human behavior, the effort we put in molding and improving our lives, the things we win, the things we loose. How our natural environment has been replaced by a designed environment. How Nature likes to hide itself.
Passed: Truman Show (1998), Fight Club (1999), Magnolia (1999).