Okay, American Beauty is shallow, pretentious, smug, condescending, and parochial. It radiates the traditional show-biz contempt for the talent-free slobs who inhabit American small towns and suburbia, cut off from high-grade hemp, cutting-edge video equipment, and the other finer things in life. But American Beauty does have its good points as well. Specifically, it tells us all the steps we need to take to achieve supreme, continuous, and unending happiness. These steps are:
IF YOU’RE A MIDDLE-AGED MAN
- Tell your wife to go fuck herself.
- Tell your boss to go fuck himself.
- Negotiate a $50,000-severance package by sexually blackmailing your boss.
- Get totally stoked on $2,000-an ounce killer weed. (Don’t worry about the money; you’ll get it somehow.)
- Buy a 30-year-old muscle car in mint condition. (Don’t worry about the money; you’ll get it somehow.)
- Have an affair with an 18-year-old cheerleader who looks and acts like a complete slut but turns out to be a sweet, shy virgin. (Of course, you’re too much of a gentleman to screw her, but you do get to see her tits.)
- Have your brains blown out by your next-door neighbor, a repressed homophobic Marine Corps colonel who turns out to be queer (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
IF YOU’RE A TEEN-AGED GIRL
- Never crack a book.
- Hate your parents.
- Cultivate a “dark waif” look.
- Wear “attitude” lipstick, except in the scenes where the director wants you to look vulnerable.
- Run off with your way-cool boyfriend (see below) to New York at a moment’s notice. (Don’t worry about the money; he’s got $40,000 in cash, and major, major Big Apple connections.)
- Have enormous breasts.
IF YOU’RE A TEEN-AGED BOY
- Never crack a book.
- Spend two years in a mental institution, thanks to your repressed homophobic Marine Corps colonel father. This will help you impress chicks.
- Run a major hemp hustle in high school, trafficking in $2,000-an ounce killer weed. (Don’t worry about the cops; you’re way too cool to be arrested.)
- Have $50,000 in cutting-edge video equipment.
- Have a fabulous, cutting-edge wardrobe.
- Run off to New York with your mega-breasted girlfriend (see above) and make gritty, authentic films about the homeless. Once you’ve made a name for yourself, move to L.A., ditch your old mega-breasted girlfriend for a new mega-breasted girlfriend, ditch your killer-weed habit for a killer-coke habit, and make millions and millions of dollars making films about young, sensitive studs who make gritty, authentic films about the homeless and have mega-breasted girlfriends.
IF YOU’RE GAY
If you’re gay you will always be happy. You will always have a gorgeous body, a fabulous lover, a fabulous career, and a fabulous house, unless you are a repressed homophobic Marine Corps colonel, in which case you should probably just go kill yourself.
IF YOU’RE A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN
Forget it, bitch! You’re old and ugly and nobody wants you!
WHY THE CRITICS LOVE IT
- Okay, not all movie critics are idiots. Only those who liked American Beauty are idiots [↩]