Scott Renshaw's review "missed" the meaning of American Beauty by the widest margin.
"The twisted, surreal vision of America provided by Ball and director Sam Mendes -- even with its now-predictable assault on soul-deadening middle class life -- could have made for a masterpiece with a revelatory sensibility at its core. Instead, it's a very good film that makes a very rare mistake. Where most films exist entirely at the surface level, American Beauty exists entirely below the surface, which is both tragic and ironic. It's easy to say that American Beauty is about finding joy in the improbable places already around you instead of seeking unattainable ideals of joy, because the film makes this message excruciatingly clear--in Ricky's comments about his obsession with videotaping, as well as Lester's narrative voice-overs. The ostensibly surprising moments in American Beauty begin losing their power to surprise, since the film keeps telling you that things are not what they seem on the surface. It never allows a moment to let the surfaces just be surfaces, opting instead to spell out that real beauty is a wind-blown plastic bag."