I was looking for a DVD the other dat, and I wasn’t sure if I had it or if my ex-wife did. One of those, “Did she keep that movie or did I?” moments. While perusing through my library of films, I came across American Beauty. I remembered how much I loved this movie, but I did not exactly remember why. I had also forgotten that it came out in 1999 (wow, before Natalie was born). So having nothing else better to do, I popped the movie into my PS2.
I didn’t sit through and watch the whole thing. Rather, I scanned through the film, stopping and re-watching those pivotal moments in the movie. Like where Kevin Spacey’s character quits his job or when he buys the 1970 Firebird and eventually tells his wife, “I rule!” <smile> I still love that scene. I love the whole movie, as a matter of fact, because I feel it’s an exploration into the dysfunction of our lives. It’s a statement against accepting the status quo simply because it’s convenient to do so. I remembered again what I liked about the movie. I remember watching it in the theater and feeling a little sense of liberation. I remember admiring the courage of Spacey’s character and wishing I could do the same. I remember feeling – just a little bit – that it’s OK to turn your world upside in order to make it better. In order to break the routine. In order to allow yourself to be happy.
American Beauty helped me realize my feelings as they existed at that time. My feelings about being married. My feelings about being ordinary. My concerns about feeling trapped and scared. By watching this movie in 1999, I felt for the first time a desire to change my life and live it the way I wanted to live it. It opened my eyes to the fact that I was still in control of what I do and who I become. In its own way, it served as an inspiration to me.
I need to be clear that I am not comparing my marriage at the time to the one depicted in the film. Things with Alex were never miserable or dire. They were never insufferable or torturous. However, the passion and energy had faded, and the constant flame that once was had somehow been reduced to a pilot light in my heart. I also need to mention again this movie came out before my kids where born, and since I am time-lining, before I met Kim and undertook that ‘journey’ with her.
It’s funny to look at this film now and have a completely different appreciation for it. To see if from this side of the proverbial fence. I see it now the way a college senior views classes taken as a freshman. At the time you think it’s almost incredulous that you can take that tough class, but a few years later you look back and think, “I couldn’t be where I am today had I not taken that challenge.”
If ever I get around to writing a screenplay, I want it to be like American Beauty. I want to write something that challenges the way people think about themselves and life. I want to write something that reminds people to pursue with reckless abandon those things in life they deem most important. I want it to be smart and witty and funny. I want it to make an impact in a person’s life, in much the same way American Beauty impacted mine.
I would like to share this quote from the movie because I feel it talks to the overall theme of the story (and this entry). If you haven’t seen the film, I suggest you do. If you have seen it, I hope you make the time to see it again.
“I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. …….Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry. You will someday.” -Alan Ball