Scene of the Week: American Beauty

  1. Tulmul 9 years ago

    One of the extraordinary movies to come out from HW in last 15 yrs or so. The movie I have seen so many times and still see whenever I feel so..

    Poetry in motion, Brilliant take on American dysfunctional family, inter human relations, breakups, individuality…

    There was another movie having same take, “happiness” and I tried to watch that but couldn’t finish it 🙁

    • Author
      sputnik 9 years ago

      “Poetry in motion, Brilliant take on American dysfunctional family, inter human relations, breakups, individuality…”

      Completely Agree.

      • Ritz 9 years ago


        I disagree a bit on “Brilliant take on American dysfunctional family, inter human relations, breakups, individuality…”

        Ofcourse it was very american in its taking, but there are lot of things which connect with everyone in today’s world – worldwide.

  2. Baba Ji 9 years ago

    Thanaks a lot for posting this sputnik. Let me come straight to the point here without giving a build-up to readers. they can refer “movies you watched thread”.

    I am talking about the second last scene. Whether colonel is gay or not is debatable. It can be argued that he kissed lester to check if he was gay. Throught the film,colonel is shown as a homophobic who hates the two gay partners living nearby. He probably kills lester bcos of the mental paranoid that he is runied his son.

    The alternate argument is the Sigmund Freud theory on Homophobia. Bcos the colonel is an extreme case of homophobe, who detests gays, but watches nude work out videos of lester, also he tries to kiss him to check if he is gay(!) . These things suggest he could be a closeted gay as per Freud theory.

    • Author
      sputnik 9 years ago

      I also thought that he was checking to see if he was gay when I first saw the movie. But my friend convinced me later that he was gay.

      Anyways here is what the writer has to say according to wikipedia.

      “Ball suspected his father was homosexual and used the idea to create Col. Fitts, a man who “gave up his chance to be himself”.

      “Early drafts also included a flashback to Col. Fitts service in the Marines, a sequence that unequivocally established his homosexual leanings. In love with another Marine, Col. Fitts sees the man die and comes to believe that he is being punished for the “sin” of being gay. Ball removed the sequence because it did not fit the structure of the rest of the film—Col. Fitts was the only character to have a flashback[94]—and because it removed the element of surprise from Col. Fitts’ later pass at Lester.[93] Ball said he had to write it for his own benefit to know what happened to Col. Fitts, even though all that remained in later drafts was subtext.[9′

      Here is another interesting thing about Lester and Angela. I think they did a good thing by making that change.

      ‘In the script that was sent to prospective actors and directors, Lester and Angela had sex;[90] by the time of shooting, Ball had rewritten the scene to the final version.[91] Ball initially rebuffed counsel from others that he change the script, feeling they were being puritanical; the final impetus to alter the scene came from DreamWorks’ then-president Walter Parkes. He convinced Ball by indicating that in Greek mythology, the hero “has a moment of epiphany before … tragedy occurs”.[92] Ball later said his anger when writing the first draft had blinded him to the idea that Lester needed to refuse sex with Angela to complete his emotional journey—to achieve redemption.’

      • Baba Ji 9 years ago

        well I think the ending was very good. anycase his obessesion for angela was not about sex or if she was hot. It was about him. He felt good about himself in doing that. It helped his low self-esteem.He says in some line “I have never felt this way in 20 years” and the bed scene,where he fires his wife that he will whack when he feels horny and doesnt care what she thinks.

      • Ritz 9 years ago

        Interesting discussion here.

        @Baba I think there should not be a debate on weather he was gay or not.

        When I saw the film and the kissing scene I felt this …

        There is a third angle, he is in deep pain (about loss of his son…he is not in good frame of mind ) and wants a company somehow….be it sacrificing his principles…

        Mind it he was very possessive about his family but in a positive way…”positive” as per his philosophy maybe…

        He was wrong in his ways to have a good dialogue with his son (maybe his own psychological setup prevented him from doing that) …but then he meant good future for him… losing his son is a big impact on his life and psyche..

        I dont think it was either the above cases…though I dont dismiss the debate – I think he was purely looking for a shoulder to cry on when his dear son left him…and so was his reaction.

  3. Baba Ji 9 years ago

    There is an intended contrast shown between the colonel and the lester house if you observe. In the colonel house, it is all about him. He is probably a sexist too. He has an introvert wife who doesnt speak at all and has low self esteem. His son also is in awe of the ftather. He makes them watch Military training videos on TV forcibly. IN contrast, If you look at the lester house, the wife is the dominating figure who forcibly makes lester visit her social parties and asks to put up a pretense of a happy couple.

    • Author
      sputnik 9 years ago

      Good Point.

      Alan Ball, the writer’s interview.

      “ Do you equate yourself with Lester, the anguished husband played by Kevin Spacey?

      Alan Ball: I definitely equate myself with him. I’m like half Lester, half Ricky [a teenage neighbor, played by Wes Bentley]. I’m sure there are parts of me in every character, but they all exist on their own. Did the script evolve much between first draft and shooting?

      Alan Ball: It evolved in details, but there were no major shifts in story or tone. In the first draft, there was a framing device of a big media trial, where the videotape of Ricky and Jane [Thora Birch] has made them guilty in the public’s eye. It all led to this horribly upsetting ending where they went on trial and got convicted. When I wrote that I think it was part of my anger, just pouring out on the page. We actually shot it, and when it got into editing it was just too cynical and too awful. Because with Thora and Wes in the movie, that love story is so heartbreaking, and the trial was also at odds with the whole heart of the movie, of Lester’s journey and his realization, so it just fell out. How would you describe Lester’s journey and revelation?

      Alan Ball: Lester’s a man who in midlife has completely lost his passion about living, as do many people who have mind-numbing corporate jobs. And he knows that he needs to get back in touch with that passion, and Angela [his daughter’s Lolita-like girlfriend, played by Mena Suvari] is the catalyst for that. But he thinks she’s the goal and she’s really just the knock on the door. At the risk of sounding incredibly lofty and pretentious, he needs to get back in touch with his spiritual connection to living. And he does, you know, right before he dies. Better then than never! You were saying that the trial scene was too cynical to keep, and yet a healthy dose of cynicism remains.

      Alan Ball: I’m one of those people who is equal parts brutally cynical and achingly romantic, you know? I think those two things can coexist–it’s all a question of balance. You get too cynical, it’s just too nihilistic. You get too romantic, it’s unrealistic. You and director Sam Mendes must have been very much on the same wavelength because that delicate balance is maintained.

      Alan Ball: He got it from the very minute he read it, and I knew that he picked up on it and got it. And I am so thankful that he directed this movie and not some big A-list Hollywood guy who would have missed the boat entirely. I was very impressed with how much Sam seemed to understand the script. And then I went to New York to see Sam’s production of Cabaret. And although Cabaret is very different than American Beauty, it was really obvious to me that this was a guy who had a real strong visual sense; he really understood the whole kinetic combination of visual and music. He’s also someone who can get incredible performances from actors. And I just instinctively went, “This is the guy.” It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a movie featuring a married couple really going at each other’s throats. Were you paying any kind of tribute to Edward Albee?

      Alan Ball: If I was, it wasn’t conscious. I’m a big fan of Edward Albee, and I think Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of the great American plays. But I think my state of mind was so angry when I wrote it, that basically I was venting a lot of stuff that I couldn’t vent about in actuality. Ricky is a drug dealer, but of all the characters he seems to be the most levelheaded and the most sure of who he is.

      Alan Ball: He’s certainly the most, I think, evolved. You look at Ricky and you look at what he’s grown up in, the environment of repression and brutality, and it’s amazing. What is it that kept him from becoming one of those kids who goes to school with a gun and just starts shooting? Something…. His ability to see the beauty in life is what kept him from just shutting down and becoming twisted and brutal. I think everybody has that ability, and we all make choices. There’s something so simple and poetic about Ricky’s encounter with the plastic bag that just keeps whirling in the breeze. You’re not sure what it means, but the simple beauty of it has a profound effect. How did that come about?

      Alan Ball: I had an encounter with a plastic bag! And I didn’t have a video camera, like Ricky does. I’m sure some people would look at that and go, “What a psycho!” But it was a very intense and very real moment. There’s a Buddhist notion of the miraculous within the mundane, and I think we certainly live in a culture that encourages us not to look for that. I do like, though, that Ricky says, “Video’s a poor excuse, but it helps me remember.” Because it’s not the video he’s focused on; it’s the experience itself. He’s very connected to the world around him. There’s obvious irony in the movie’s title. Without wanting to label things too much, what do you want the title to convey?

      Alan Ball: If there’s any theme to this movie, it’s that nothing is what it appears to be on the surface. That there is a life behind things and it’s much more interesting and real than the veneer of reality that we all sort of tacitly agree to accept. And the tag line is, “…look closer.”

      Alan Ball: Yeah. And when you first see the title you think, “American Beauty + rose,” and then you see the movie and you think that Angela’s the American Beauty–the blond cheerleader that is the secretive object of lust. But it’s not Angela–it’s that plastic bag. It’s the way of looking at the world and seeing what incredible beauty there is in the world. And I think that’s something that we’re born with that gets ironed out of us by our culture and by experience and by conformity. I think there’s a part of everybody that yearns to get that back. The movie’s final line has a real edge to it that some people aren’t going to find very comforting, but at the same time it’s completely consistent with everything you’ve just seen.

      Alan Ball: Yeah, exactly. The point is that we live in a culture that goes out of its way to deny mortality. And being dead, Lester’s in a prime position to make that observation.

      Alan Ball: Yeah, and I think you have to have a deep and fundamental acceptance of mortality to really be able to see what’s beautiful in life, because beauty and truth are inextricably connected. That’s not a particularly original thought, but a lot of stuff in the script is really instinctive. I didn’t think about what the purpose of it was, or that kind of thing. And now I find myself trying to second-guess what is symbolic of what, and what it means. ”

      • Baba Ji 9 years ago

        very good interview. yes ricky is most enigmatic character in the film and also most sure and confident. angela is the weakest emotionally.

  4. Baba Ji 9 years ago

    Lesters wife too in an interesting character. she seems confident while selling houses but closes the door and cries..

    Her character is close to ppl with low self esteem like srk. They need to keep pampering themselves to feel good about them. So like srk keeps calling himself ” I am the king” , lester wife keeps talking about one line which says for success to you need to show an image of success.

  5. Ritz 9 years ago

    Its a movie where I can’t pick a single line of dialogue as my favorite.

    One of the best movies made Ever.

    My most fav scene in this is the last scene in this film – his monologue when he is dead…when he talks about his life.

    Love every line single of this scene. I cant pick my favorite.

    Ofcrouse have seen the movie multiple times and even forced my friends / relatives to watch it with me ….never get fed up of watching this film. Evergreen.

    • Author
      sputnik 9 years ago

      Yes Ritz its one of the best movies ever made. And that last monologue is great.

      I posted the monologue video too (its the last one in the post) but its not from the start. So thanks for the clip.

      • Ritz 9 years ago

        @Sputnik, sorry to trouble you – I corrected few spelling mistakes and it ended up in deleting the embedded video I posted.

        Can you please post again. Thanks !! (it all happened as I didnt login ..kind of busy these days…sorry)

    • Baba Ji 9 years ago

      same here, i think every scene in the film has merit. its one of the great movies in the world and among my all-time favs.

    • Author
      sputnik 9 years ago

      Good write up though there is a bit of over reading 😉

  6. Baba 8 years ago

    An interesting comment on a forum :

    Comment 7 by ‘moviefanatic’ (reply to this comment)
    i dont think that frank killed lester – like the comment before the blood spray was wrong . I reckon the colonel killed his wife after realising that his marriage was just a cover up, “for show” as said before in the garage.

    I think Sam Mendes intended the audience to not know who shot Lester – for all we know it could have been someone else e.g. buddy or “brad” from work..

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