American Beauty is one of the most imaginative films of 1999. It is the first produced feature film screenplay by Alan Ball and the film directorial debut of Sam Mendes. This fascinating drama set in suburbia charts the transformation of Lester, a depressed and burnt-out middle-ager. The catalysts for his remarkable change are a sexy teenage girl and a young man, Ricky, who discovers the mysteries of life through a camera lens.

In one of the best scenes in the film, Ricky shows Lester's daughter, Jane, a video he made of a plastic bag being blown around by the wind. He describes what it means to him: "It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing. And there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just . . . dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever." And then he concludes: "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it . . . and my heart is going to cave in." All those who are enthralled by American Beauty will want to savor the nuances of the script in this paperback.