|Art is a mirror. Someone of good self esteem and rational sense of life can find a positive reflection in a work of art that is objectively deplorable.
I rented American Beauty about a year ago -- yes, it took this long to get around to it -- and I did not finish watching it. The movie was deplorable. I have to admit, though, that I found the writing and directing compelling.
If you have never been on stage, it is easy to misunderstand acting. Liberals like Martin Sheen stand out in Hollywood specifically because he has ideas of his own in his head -- though there is the scene in Team America where he says, "Let's read newspapers and go on talk shows and repeat what we've read as if they are our own ideas." Actors only know what other people tell them. The author writes the play. The director tells them how to realize the lines. Whether an actor is "brilliant" depends on a track record. Dustin Hoffman and Kathleen Turner are truly talented and versatile. However, Hollywood has long thrived on "type" actors where they find someone who is this way (at least on screen) and they get roles like that. So, that generally precludes an actor who can do a range of roles.
Theater is more demanding. While the maturation of the medium lets typecasting work well, still, you have actors like Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Andrews who grew up on the live stage before going to film. Glenn Close is the kind of film actress who shows a "theatrical" presence.
One of the aspects of Star Trek: Next Generation that came out was the "acting within acting" that they were allowed. Patrick Stewart went through a wide range of emotions that gave depth to his character. Gates McFadden was another. On the other hand, I saw Brent Spiner play a mafia lawyer in a movie, and damn if it wasn't the android Commander Data in a suit.
Anyway, American Beauty is my kind of fantasy, for sure: the old guy gets a cheerleader -- yowza! -- but where is she in that? I mean, do we see the girl with serious depth who cannot be satisfied by a boy her own own age -- or even 10 years older... or 20... but who finds fulfillment and reflection in the (much) older man whose depth of character meets her needs? No. ... hmmm... sorry I asked...