In many (most?) cases, filmmaking is anything but a linear process in which an auteur has a vision, writes the screenplay, storyboards the shots, casts the actors, shoots the scenes, edits the results to match the screenplay. Nope. It’s typically much more messy. That is true for American Beauty, which changed quite a lot from initial script (it was going to be a play) to what happened in post (“As Sam [Mendes] observed during editing, ‘It’s like the movie is letting us know what it wants to be.’ ” – American Beauty, The Shooting Script).
Read the massive (12,000 + words) Wikipedia entry on the film, highlighting everything you see that could have made the film go in a different direction. Then describe and discuss those directions and their meanings, always making clear how they differ from the film that actually was released. Feel free to be opinionated – you can like or dislike anything, both in the rejected possibilities and in the final film.