American Beauty at 20: is the Oscar-winning hit worth a closer look?

In the years since its release, critics have turned against 1999’s Oscar-winning suburban satire but it remains a telling snapshot of the time

I was 16 when I first saw American Beauty; it was the ideal age for it, though I didn’t know it then. In my last year of high school, with the adult world beckoning but largely unexplored, Sam Mendes and Alan Ball’s tart, neat diorama of suburban discord seemed excitingly grown-up, a lucid, witty articulation of all my most cynical teenage suppositions about my elders: that they were tortured and miserable and a bit pathetic, though with enough money and sex drive to make their ennui soapily intriguing.

Related: Magnolia to The Matrix: was 1999 the greatest year in modern cinema?

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