I just watched American Beauty for the first time in many years and the main impression I got was that I must have been brainwashed or just swept up in the acclaim that the film received back in 1999. I really didn’t like American Beauty at all. It has that same annoying, smug fashionable cynicism, that sees the world, or America more like it, as a land of zombies that need to wake up and engage in antisocial behavior to acquire a sense of self-worth. It’s a tired theme, especially these days where writers like Alan Ball and the Fight Club team of Finch/Palahniuk/Uhls can’t help but express their contempt through condescension towards “those people.” And they cloak their daggers in humor, or that irresistable critical term “satire,” so that the poison, like Jim Jones’ koolaid, will go down a little easier with their sheep. What’s interesting is that these films seem to be striving for what the 1960 film The Apartment achieved so beautifully and effortlessly (minus the smugness). I’m not surprised that Mendes and Spacy both site The Apartment as their model for American Beauty, but unfortunately, as much as they would like to be, they aint no Wilder/Lemmon. It’s cynicism masquerading as truthfulness and condescension as a substitute for intelligence.