Alan Ball and Sam Mendes’ 1999 Oscar-winner American Beauty hasn’t aged well. (This, coming from a Great Job, Internet! writer who once had a brief-but-weirdly intense online relationship in the year 2000 predicated almost entirely on his deep, evangelical passion for the film.) Reasons for the backlash are myriad—Family Guy probably did its part, with a well-executed parody of the film’s now-cliche plastic bag scene—but at least some of it lies in our gradual realization that it’s not, like, great, that the movie’s hero is a middle-aged white dude who reaches self-actualization by yelling at his wife, ignoring his daughter, and trying to fuck a teenage girl.
Ball’s award-winning screenplay is still an incredibly effective emotional engine, though, as thoroughly dissected in a recent video post from newly debuted YouTube series “Lessons From The Screenplay.” Creator Michael Tucker gives a thoughtful analysis of all the things Ball gets right—even if his description of the movie as “perfect” might make viewers scoff a little—and delves into the very different film American Beauty became during its time in the editing bay. (For instance, Mendes cut out most of the original beginning and ending of the film, which carried a far darker tone that what made it onto the screen.) The two-part video isn’t necessarily the total redemption American Beauty fans have been clamoring for every year at LesterCon (“Now with an entire garden’s worth of falling rose petals and weed for every attendee!”), but it’s definitely a start.