In the late nineties, I happened to notice that fellas were not the awesome badasses they used to be. All the Rambos and Commandos were gone, replaced with Matt Damons and Ben Affleckseses. Seemed like an odd phenomenon to me, so I decided to make a movie about it. Twenty-seven Oscars later, I’m not sure I made my point clear enough.
Kevey Spacey is a wimpy pathetic suburbanite loser. One day he gets his first boner in a decade and realizes that he threw his awesomeness away for a bland house filled with bland bullshit. Why? Because the 80’s told him to! Instead of taking responsibility for his bad choices like a “real” man, he chooses to blame them on the women in his life, like a real man.
First off, there’s his daughter, a pre-goth teenager who’s about ten bad haiku’s away from her first botched suicide. She’s that kind of brat who whines about how ignored she is, then screams “Give me space, Dad!” to everyone who tries to help. I had a kid like this once. I sold her to a Chinese restaurant.
Next there’s his wife who, without any changes to the script, could have been the main character in an empowering chick flick. But this is American Beauty, so we’ll just refer to her as a bitch. I suppose she’s like the suburban Hillary Clinton.
He does all kinds of things to piss them off and make himself feel more like a nineteen year old jock (which isn’t pathetic in this particular case…the awards say so). While sitting in a scorching hot, endless traffic jam, he says, “Fuck this!” and abandons the traffic-locked car for a vintage Ford Mustang, a car designed for making new families, not keeping old families safe. Later he empties his wife’s “just in case I lose weight” wardrobe out of the garage and moves in a Superflex machine. He’s beefing up because he wants to perform well at this violent new men-only club he joined. He also starts smoking a lot of weed because weed is natural and he’s all fed up with artificial bullshit like tea.
Wifey and daughtery answer these new lifestyle changes by running into the arms of other men. Hillary ends up with the man she should have been with all along, uber-classy real estate agent Peter Gallagher. Real quick, I’ll tell you the big secret you’re not supposed to know about Peter Gallagher…he’s a Jim Henson creation. Anyway, they screw around a lot, and Hillary basically has the time of her life. But this is American Beauty so…THAT BITCH!
The daughter finds herself wrapped around her new neighbor, Young Dracula. Dracula is not long for this world because he suffers from a very weak heart. It nearly explodes every time he sees trash. While he’s still here, he has to use a video camera to filter out the intensity of his beauty attacks. A lot of kids at school think he’s a weirdo, and they are fucking correct. I guess that’s just what happens when your dad is Hitler Jr. and your mother is Nell.
So each family member has fallen in love, the girls with their boyfriends, and the dad with himself. They have found happiness by getting as far away from each other as possible. The movie could have ended here and been pretty satisfying, but I had awards to win so tragic death was necessary.
Who kills him? Well let’s see. He catches onto his wife’s affair and ruins it, so she’s game. His daughter and Dracula like morbid stuff, so they wouldn’t say no. He blackmailed his boss, so there’s always that possibility. He’s really slacking on his Project Mayhem responsibilities, so he might become one of their assignments. And his house is built on a Native American burial ground, so Hell itself could snatch him away at any moment.
But no. What happens instead is completely outta left field. See, Young Dracula’s dad, Hitler Jr. hates gay people. And like a lot of people who hate gay people, he hates gay people because deep down he is a gay people. The more manly Kevey Spacey becomes, the less Hitler Jr. can resist his American Beauty (especially the thorny, steamy stem). Finally, one night while it’s suburban raining and the mood is just right, he can’t take it anymore and comes over for a little make-out action. “Whoa,” Spacey says, pushing him away. “I’m trying to become more manly. MORE. Understand, fruitcake? M-O-R-E. The last thing I need is another wife. Go home and watch some Hugh Jackman movies or whatever.”
This being gay thing is obviously a big secret for Hitler Jr. So he grabs his gun and shoots Spacey in the head to keep that secret safe. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work because Spacey worked-out so much and smoked such large quantities of pot that he can narrate his own story from beyond the grave. “So who did it?” asks the cops. Spacey’s narration answer surprises everyone:
“Not him,” he narrates. “He’s a homo, but he didn’t kill me. No, the person who shot me was…HER! It was my wife. She’s been sucking my will to live for twenty years now, officers. I guess she finally got around to finishing the job!” She gets arrested and, thanks to her big mouth, executed on the way to the police station. Remember, this is American Beauty. Don’t feel sorry for her like your conscience is telling you to. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Kevey Spacey. The way he acts like a baby is far more appealing.
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey