American Beauty script by Alan Ball
CLOSE on a single, dewy AMERICAN BEAUTY ROSE. A gloved hand with CLIPPERS .. His POV: Angela looks directly at us now, dancing only for Lester. Her movements take on a .. LESTER (cont'd). We have a very healthy relationship. Alan Ball's early drafts of American Beauty were much darker. In the new ending, Lester did not have sex with Angela, and Frank Fitts killed Lester. That's why he is so strict with his son Ricky and his relationship to Lester: he figures that. The movie American Beauty shows what can happen when one achieves the he meets his daughters' friend Angela and immediately develops an infatuation for a romantic relationship with the neighbor's son, Ricky who Lester purchases .
In the car in the rain with the gun and the motivational tape "I will not be a victim" - like she's a victim of anybody but her own selfwe are convinced she has crossed that line; if she does, if she could, she would become just like the one figure in the movie who embraces violence, Ricky's father, Frank. But she doesn't, and although it is fleeting, the image of Carolyn hiding the handbag with the gun in disgust at her own black thoughts and embracing her husbands clothes and they aren't his nice clothes, and she's not trying to be neat about it suggests that the rubber band has snapped back, and that she has been restored.
She still may be materialistic she is, after all, embracing his clothes and not himbut there's a hint there which I feel suggests she could learn the lesson of this movie too. And I feel that way partly because of Angela, who is the younger version of Carolyn.
Like Carolyn, Angela sells herself with an image which is a lie. She is not a sexually experienced, confident person, but that is the image of herself which she sells to everyone else. And like Carolyn she thinks that's how the world is; you sleep with the photographer to get the job - in other words you do what you have to do to succeed, that's all that matters.
This connection is further emphasized by Lester's interest in Angela sexually Angela replaces his wifeand the use of Carolyn's roses in Lester's fantasies about Angela. These fantasies are like ads, full of promise and surface beauty and sexual suggestiveness, but, like ads and the house Carolyn is trying to sell, not at all like the real thing.
What causes Lester's epiphany is when he finally sees Angela as a person who is more than an image or a fantasy. Two things happen to create the shock necessary to wake Lester up. Angela confesses she is a virgin, and at about the same time, he opens up her shirt and we get No rose petals like in his fantasy.
- Analysis of “American Beauty” – Part 1 of Several
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They're just little 16 year-old breasts. And this is a real person. Suddenly everything that Lester's been prepared to realize he realizes. He now sees people Angela, Jane, Carolyn as more than surface. He now can see beauty everywhere.
The scene between the aborted sexual encounter between Angela and Lester, and Lester's death is rather interesting. Compare this scene, where Lester serves up a snack for Angela, with the earlier scene in which he throws the plate of asparagus at the wall. The asparagus dish is really for show, not for eating; that's why no one will pass it to Lester. The food for Angela is good she eats it and likes it and is made for eating, not for show we don't even see get to see it.
We do see the asparagus all prepared food as imageand we do see Lester making Angela's snack food for consumption. The environments in which the meals are served are also contrasted: And likewise the conversation: As Carolyn and Angela are a pair, Jane and Lester are too.
She and Lester are the only characters who have a relationship with Ricky. Ricky and Lester are also the only men in the life of Jane. Like Lester, Jane is transformed by Ricky, although in her case she goes directly from someone who does not appreciate their own beauty she thinks she needs breast implants, for exampleto someone who does at the end, she's willing to use her breast implant money for their future; more graphically, she's willing to take her shirt off and stand in a window and be videotaped.
By spending so much time with Ricky, she quickly begins to see the world his way, at least a little bit. We don't get the sense that she's tapped into Ricky's "everything is beautiful" attitude quite yet, but you get the feeling she's on her way. So, unlike Lester, she doesn't go all the way which in his case means being killed more on that laterso it's probably a good thing. I stated above that Jane is positioned as a surrogate for Lester.
What I meant is that Jane is the character to whom Ricky tells the most to; this is so we can hear it, of course. With Lester and Ricky it mostly is about scoring pot, but it would be implausible to have Ricky reveal too much to Lester. So he reveals only a little to Lester, but it is enough to change him. The rest we get through his relationship with Jane. That's why I feel the pot is a symbol of the information Ricky possesses.
Lester buys it from Ricky, and he only buys the best stuff, the stuff that Ricky himself smokes, the stuff that never makes you paranoid, but gives you a mellow high.
And so we come to Ricky, who has already gone through his transformation mostlywhich is why he can see so far into other people. The first time he meets Lester at the real estate party his immediate connection with Lester is in stark contrast to Carolyn's inability to understand even the simplest thing about her own husband. His outburst at Angela near the end of the movie the first time he's really even looked at her goes right to the heart of her insecurities, setting up not only her tryst with Lester, but more importantly setting up her revelation to Lester about her insecurity about having sex with him, which of course allows Lester to break from his adolescent behavior; this provides another important link between Ricky and Lester's transformation.
And of course Ricky only has relationships with those who are ready to be transformed. Ricky's transformation into this nearly pure character, who, like the Fool in King Lear, always tells the truth except to his father; see belowwho experiences everything as beauty, takes place before the movie begins.
He has died and been reborn metaphorically in his time in the mental ward. Lester, after his death, explains that the last second of life goes on forever, and it is only at this point that he quotes Ricky's lines about too much beauty in the world. Ricky is already living like every second is his last, but for most of us this is not possible. We cannot go about our lives, doing dishes or work or anything mundane if we are so painfully aware of our mortality as Ricky is.
This is why Ricky is shown linked with death the funeral, the dead homeless lady. He has gone beyond the pale, between his life with his father and his time in the ward. Symbolically he has already died, and so each second is a gift, extra time granted to his life. And here lies the heart of the movie.
American Beauty: Insecure People | Character Analysis
We should all strive to live like this, aware of our mortality, aware of the beauty in a plastic bag, at least a little bit. Each moment, each minute and hour, we do die a little, never able to retrieve those moments to live again. It is impossible to be this aware all the time. Ricky's mother is the symbol for that existence - she spends her day disconnected from the world, staring at nothing in particular presumable arrested by the beauty all around herunable to act until prompted by someone else.
Ricky has to navigate between the two extremes of the violence of his father and the non-existence of his mother. When we last see Ricky's mother, we get the view of a person who can't even do the dishes without being completely arrested by an object as ordinary as a plate.
So, we cannot go about our lives, or anything mundane, if we are so painfully aware of our mortality as Ricky is.
This is also why Lester must die, and it's not really a sad thing when it happens. He has reached that point, and he cannot live with this newfound revelation.
All he will be able to do is look at things and marvel at their beauty like he does with the photograph right before his death. Lester's death is simply part of gaining that particular viewpoint; if you reach this point, you can't go on living. That's why Jane's transformation is primarily about finding beauty in herself; Ricky and all of us need her to stay living in the world. Ricky also stands in opposition to his father, who is unable to penetrate the obvious lies his son feeds him Colonel Frank Fitts is the only character Ricky lies towhile Ricky knows the inner secrets of strangers.
Colonel Fitts cannot even begin to love himself, to see beauty in himself or anything else, while Ricky sees beauty everywhere, in the must mundane things The first time we meet the family, Frank is reading the paper. Ricky inquires about what is going on in the world, and Frank's reply is that it is going to hell.
American Beauty ( film) - Wikipedia
He can't even graciously accept a welcome to the neighborhood gift and I mean before he finds out the men at his door are homosexuals. Frank's depravity is most obvious when he beats Ricky for going in his locked cabinet, a cabinet from which nothing is missing, a cabinet filled with violence and hate, a cabinet filled only with things, and not very nice things at that.
On one level, it shows us where Carolyn's materialism could end up; as I suggested above, she is headed in Frank's direction. On a deeper level, it shows something about Frank. Frank is so angry over this because he doesn't want Ricky to become what he is, a self-hating, all-hating individual. Remember, Ricky is sneaking into his father's locked cabinet which filled with violence and hate, a sort of Pandora's box of evil.
He calls Angela, but hangs up immediately when Jane exits the shower. He awkwardly attempts to contact Angela to begin a relationship — Lester associates having Angela with happiness.
Later, Lester and Carolyn bicker at a party. When Carolyn flocks over to local real estate magnate Buddy King, Lester makes an awkward, honest comment. This embarrasses Carolyn, and Lester further embarrasses her with a protracted kiss in front of Buddy.
Lester starts to cut loose a bit, taking another step towards his super-objective. Ricky and Lester retire outside for some recreational smoking.
Lester enjoys himself and makes a connection with Ricky. Jane brings Angela over to her house. Aware that Lester is fixated, Angela decides to flirt with him. Lester quickly falls into a semi-erotic fantasy. Later, Lester overhears Angela talking about him with Jane. Lester hears Angela mention that he would be sexy if he worked out. Later, Lester goes into the garage, finds some weights, and works out in the buff.
He is clearly motivated to get fit. Carolyn catches Lester masturbating during a nighttime fantasy. Lester defends his right to masturbate, as his wife does not service him.
They argue about their mutual sexual frustration, and Carolyn brings up divorce. Lester quickly turns the tables on her, ending the argument.
Lester seizes control from Carolyn and does not back down from her criticisms. This fosters the self-control needed for Lester to achieve his super-objective. Lester starts running with Jim and Jim.
Getting high is a new sub-objective for Lester — it helps him to relax and enjoy life. Lester fondly recalls his youth to Ricky: Later, Lester smokes a joint in the garage while lifting weights. When Carolyn confronts him on his new social deviance, he retorts, telling her to leave.
Lester writes a sarcastic and biting performance review. Brad tries to fire Lester, but Lester counters by threatening blackmail and sexual harassment. Lester refuses to be a victim, turning the tables on his thankless employers. Lester separates himself from the working rabble, gaining a degree of freedom.
Later in the evening, Lester eats dinner with his wife and daughter. Lester and Carolyn bicker, and Jane is forced to listen. When Jane tries to leave, Lester exerts authority, and Jane sits back down. Carolyn rants hysterically, refusing to quit. Again Lester exerts himself, smashing a plate against the wall. In this scene, Lester works on the sub-objective of reclaiming his familial authority. Lester exhibits more self-control, and he moves towards his super-objective.
Lester enjoys the spoils of his severance by purchasing a Pontiac Firebird. He also buys several toys. When Carolyn berates Lester yet again, Lester defuses her through compliments. He makes a move on her, and we sense a happier past.
But before he can round second base, Carolyn breaks the mood, afraid Lester might spill beer on the couch. Lester cannot overcome the sub-objective of salvaging his family life. He gets angry with her material worship and chases her away. Despite acquiring material objects for himself, Lester is not happy. We flash forward to Lester running through the neighborhood. He looks much happier and healthier. While Lester makes a health shake in his kitchen, he learns Angela will be sleeping over.
Lester calls his daughter a bitch, just like her mother. This hurts Jane, and she leaves.