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  • Award Snub: Despite the praise it received, Thomas Newman's score failed to win an 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.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: Lester quitting his job, and pretty much everything he does after.
    • Ricky has two in swift sucession: Telling his father that he's a prostitute, just to mess with his head, and then telling Angela that she's 'ugly, boring and totally ordinary' to get back at her for being a bitch to Jane.
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in." If you don't think that watching a plastic bag dancing in the wind could ever make you cry, you're wrong.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: Any Other Name
  • Fridge Horror: Assuming, of course, Frank gets caught, but if he ever did, what would happen to Barbara? The woman is a shell, incapable of any thought for herself, if Frank ever left, since Ricky was booted...what would happen to her?
  • Hilarious in Hindsight / Fridge Brilliance: A surprising number of the film's lines are even funnier on second viewing, when you already know the truth of the characters.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tear Jerker: Lester's death and final monologue.
    • Ricky saying goodbye to his mother before leaving home.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Inverted. The only normal/stable/sane people in the entire film are the Straight Gay Two Jims.
  • 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 schools 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.
  • The Woobie: Jane, Ricky, and pretty much everyone at the end.
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