Was American Beauty the single best film of 1999? I can’t decide. The second time I watched the film, on a widescreen video screener after it won the Oscar for Best Picture, I thought with horror: I named this sitcom one of my best films of the year? On a third viewing, also on the small screen, I saw once again all the brilliance that I saw the first time around, and more.
The Lester that American Beauty offers us at first is anything but inspirational — in fact, he may be one of the most unlikable protagonists to hit the screen in a while. A ‘horny geek boy,’ as his teenage daughter calls him, a ‘gigantic loser’ as he calls himself, Lester tells us right as the film opens that he’ll be dead in less than a year. And we don’t care.