written by Mike Shea on 28 November 2002
I had the opportunity to re-screen American Beauty tonight. I have a philosophy that it is better to watch a good movie again than a bad movie the first time. While some movies don't hold up as well a second or third time, I found myself riveted to the seat again watching this movie over two years after it's release.
Along with Fight Club, American Beauty is a wonderful anti-social commentary. It builds a satiric world of modern social order and then breaks it with a primal influence so strong yet so buried under our social conditioning. In Fight Club its violence. Raw and powerful violence, uninhibited. In American Beauty it's lust. Pure and unfettered lust.
Each movie follows the central character as they begin to accept their animalistic drives away from the conditioning of society. In Fight Club our hero rolls a modern art sculpture into a Starbucks and makes designer soap out of rich women's fat asses. In American Beauty, our hero smokes pot, lifts weights, seduces the 16 year old friend of his daughter, and buys a Firebird.
Each of the main characters seem to realize the balance they've forgotten at the end but they only seem to discover this when a bullet races through their heads. Jack in Fight Club realizes that his whole delemma was caused when he fell in love with a transient named Marla. Lester in Beauty realizes that no matter how sexy that 16 year old cheerleader really is, she's still just a kid.
The biggest similarity between Fight Club and American Beauty is in the quality of the films. Both manage the black comedy with perfect balance. Both mix humor with deep characters and powerful stories. Both are cinematicly wonderful to watch. Both are on the list of best movies of this century. If you haven't had a chance to watch Fight Club or American Beauty recently, make it a double feature. It beats the hell out of Snow Dogs and Nutty Professor 2.
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