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YMMV: American Beauty
  • Award Snub: Despite the praise it received, Thomas Newman's score failed to win a Oscar. Some also were disappointed that Chris Cooper didn't receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role.
  • Bittersweet Ending / Downer Ending / Esoteric Happy Ending: Depending on what perspective you take from the ending.
    • At the very least there's a personal Inferred Holocaust coming for the rest of the cast, since almost all of them have a reason to commit the murder and all of their dirty laundry is going to come out in the ensuing criminal investigation.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: Any Other Name
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Angela nearly lets a friend's middle aged father take her virginity, and tearfully admits how stupid she feels for it. Later, Mena Suvari, her actor, confessed to the public that she regret whom her first time was with (albeit this was a "loser" by her words, not an aged man).
    • Also, Ricky admitting to filming a homeless woman freeze to death is now this with the rise of sick individuals who choose to film car accidents, people dying and the like with their smart phones instead of trying to render assistance.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight / Fridge Brilliance:
  • Hollywood Homely: Jane, particularly with regards to that whole "saving up for a boob job" thing.
    • It might be intentional; she's meant to be beautiful, but has poor self-image.
      • There's also the question of whether she's planning to get an enhancement or a reduction. Without the benefit of freeze-frame, it could be read either way. And works either way too!
      • Based on the way she and Ricky acted when she said that, it seemed they were both aware of the irony that she no longer needed the money for such a thing. Time took care of it.
  • Hype Aversion: Some people thought it was over-hyped ... including the director.
  • Memetic Mutation: The image of Angela covered by rose petals is highly subject to parodies.
  • Narm: While the message — that beauty is all around us if we know where to look — is fine, many viewers found the way that several of the characters regarded that little plastic bag blowing in the wind as being a little bit overwrought and pretentious. It's a bag caught in an updraft; it might make a very nice image, but it's hardly the cure for cancer or anything as groundbreaking or awe-inspiring as the characters seem to think it is.
    • It's worse when you know the effect is completely artificial; there were two guys with leaf blowers standing just out of the frame to keep it moving for that long.
    • Kevin Spacey's frozen, slack-jawed expression that the camera zooms in on when he sees Angela for the first time.
      • Though he was probably meant to look dumb there.
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Especially since a film that looked at the darker nature of suburbia was considered a marvel then, but the themes tackled in this film have been more common by now.
  • Values Dissonance: The criticism from most of the negative reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes. Mostly about appearing to glamorize the lifestyle of the man after he starts neglecting his responsibilities to his family in favor of buying drugs from and trying to seduce high-school students (as a middle-aged man), as well as further trying to avoid responsibility by getting an entry-level job, despite his family's middle-class lifestyle and daughter approaching college age. Responsibility doesn't seem to go hand in hand with happiness for the protagonist in this movie.
    • Lester took up the entry-level job after he had already blackmailed his way into a severance package involving a full year's salary and benefits. He didn't take the new job for the money, in other words; but nothing is really said about why he did bother to take it. This is arguably a writing misstep on Alan Ball's part, as it could clarify Lester's attitude towards his responsibilities.
    • He probably just needed somewhere to go during the day.
  • The Woobie: Jane, Ricky, and pretty much everyone at the end.
    • Lester at the start even if he hides it beneath layers of sarcasm. Anyone who has ever felt that their best days are behind them and felt that horrible sense of being detached from life will definitely relate.

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