American Beauty: The Ultimate Midlife Crisis Flick.

January 6, 2023

American Beauty: The Ultimate Midlife Crisis Flick.

May 29, 2023

In “American Beauty,” Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, an advertising executive who finds himself in the middle of a midlife crisis. At 42 years old, life has been a frustrating mixture of lost opportunity, frustrated longing, and oppressive social constraint.

The story speaks to Lester’s revaluation of life, or as he puts it, “I feel like I’ve been in a coma for twenty years, and I’m now just waking up.”

Given that I’m penning a new book called “Learning to Love Midlife” (2024 release), I thought now would be a good time to go back and rewatch “American Beauty,” a film I first saw nearly a quarter-century ago. Let’s just say watching this film at 38 is entirely different from watching it at 62.

I won’t rehash the plot other than to say one of my favorite film moments (of all time, I might add) is when the idealistic boy next door, courting Lester’s daughter, shows a video of a plastic bag floating in the wind as a cinematic expression of just how much beauty there is in the world. It’s an animistic orgasm of filmmaking. And a good lesson for all who seek to view the world with a different and hopeful lens.

However, as much as I loved that moment, the most awe-dropping moment comes from Lester late in the movie when he offers this line, “It is a great thing when you still have the ability to surprise yourself.”

The line is a profound call to action—to wake up and see the wonder and beauty around us and, more importantly, within us. It is also our reminder that the moment we stop surprising ourselves (feeling the awe of life) is the moment when it’s time to call the mortuary.

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