A Controversial Oscar Winner Is Being Added To Netflix

An interesting choice!

By Dan Lawrence | Updated

netflix a clockwork orange

With every month comes a whole new bucketload of content to charm Netflix subscribers new and old, including original creations and film and television favorites from years gone by. On September 1st alone, the likes of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (and its two sequels), A Clockwork Orange and If Beale Street Could Talk are among well over a dozen titles being added to the popular streaming platform. However, the addition of the controversial Oscar-winner American Beauty to Netflix on September 1st may prove to be an unpopular move, given the less than positive baggage the film comes with, courtesy of its disgraced star Kevin Spacey.

With American Beauty, Netflix adds a film beloved by critics upon its release (with an 87% score on Rotten Tomatoes to prove it) and won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 2000 Oscars, along with four wins in other categories and a further three nominations. The film, directed by Sam Mendes (Skyfall, 1917) stars Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham, a middle-aged man going through (you guessed it) a mid-life crisis whilst becoming increasingly infatuated with his daughter’s best friend Angela (Mena Suvari). One could interpret the seedy nature of a middle-aged man lusting after his daughter’s friend as merely challenging, thought-provoking cinema, worthy of critical and award recognition. However, the flip side of that coin is that if one were to bury beneath the surface of the film’s plot, you’d expose a film that is considered problematic and evident of how far sexual ethics have come since the film’s release in 1999.

american beauty netflix
Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)

Twenty years after the new Netflix addition American Beauty was released, Esquire sought to uncover some of the problematic tendencies the film is privy to; male perversion, a lack of diversity on screen and predatory behavior. In other words, an unfavorable mirror to hold up to Hollywood in real life, as exposed throughout the MeToo movement. Should it be a case that Kevin Spacey’s Lester is celebrated for his dry cynicism, or perhaps was it just a case of celebrating a fine actor’s performance, after all, not every character can be heroic and absent of negative behaviours? Had it not been for Kevin Spacey’s disgraceful behavior when the cameras aren’t rolling, then maybe American Beauty and his performance within it would still be held in high regard as a challenging expose of seedy suburbia. However, Spacey’s legacy has now tainted a great number of his previous works. Beginning in October 2017, a plethora of reports emerged claiming Kevin Spacey was said to be involved in several acts of sexual assault and misconduct in several different scenarios. A number of the indecent acts were made toward male individuals and in the midst of the controversy, Spacey chose to come out as Homosexual, drawing criticism from the Gay community for the timing of the statement and how it appeared to be an attempt to excuse his behaviour. Fast forward to 2022 and the actor is still facing charges in court.

Given that Kevin Spacey’s involvement in the popular Netflix series House of Cards was terminated following his controversy, it appears a strange tactic for Netflix to add American Beauty to its extensive roster of content, especially considering the fact that controversy still courts Spacey to this day (which is being covered in a documentary for British TV on Channel 4). Despite all of the controversy surrounding Spacey, the actor has been in the midst of a slight comeback in recent times, having been announced in two separate film projects, historical drama 1242 – Gateway to the West and Peter Five Eight, but he has since been dropped from the former, showing sings that filmmakers still aren’t comfortable with putting him back on screen.

Will American Beauty draw in Netflix views when it hits the streamer next month? Can the film win over audiences new and old based on its merits as opposed to being overlooked due to its problematic flaws and disgraced lead actor? It certainly seems like Spacey is still considered to be a negative influence on any project he’s been involved with, so it may be for the best that Netflix has plenty of other content for subscribers to enjoy.