The title is also the name of a breed of roses that is prone to decay beneath the surface. That’s why American Beauty‘s tagline is: “Look closer.” Little thoughts like that, that just add some depth to a film, are why I love films. They’re the little bits of trivia you can spout off at any time, and people go, “Huh.”
But it’s not what puts American Beauty on my good list. I like this film because I like its absurd brand of voyeurism. Surely there is no patch of suburban land in the USA in which such a concentrated level of decay actually exists. But you never really know.
Watching other families and knowing yours is better is like masturbating. American Beauty is like porn. It’s like a big congratulations for not being quite as fucked up as any one of its characters. The reason, I think, that the threshold for crazy is so high (you’d have to be really dysfunctional to rival the Burnham family or their neighbours) is to act as a kind of therapy.
Maybe I’ll watch American Beauty next time I argue with my dad, or the next time my sister tells me she wished she was an only child. Eh, my family is pretty bizarre, but we’re not at American Beauty level. We may not look as picture perfect – whether like the rose or the family – but we’re still alive at the roots.