Film Thoughts: American Beauty (1999)
Film: American Beauty
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening
In the 1999 Academy Award Winning Best Picture, American Beauty, a suburban father named Lester Burnham becomes attracted to his daughter’s best friend, which begins a mid-life crisis.
This was our first screening in the Arkansas Film Movement, and we screened the film on Friday, November 18, 2016. We had a pretty good crowd for our first Friday, and the discussion following the movie was quite lively.
Writing: Screenwriting student, Blake Smith, pointed out that American Beauty is one of the best-written films of the late 20th century. He expressed such an admiration for the depth of the characters, the realistic and rich dialogue, and the tightness with which the story was told.
Symbolism: Ashley Taylor discussed the brilliant symbolism in the film: from the “bars” on Lester’s computer that make up a figurative prison to the repetition of the roses throughout the film that symbolize control. Everyone agreed that was one of the best things about the film, and several other people cited examples.
Fitting in: Jennifer Ericson discussed how a central theme in the film is fitting into the boxes society places us in. Lester struggles with the job society tells him he should have, Ricky is more drawn to Jane than Angela although society would consider Angela more conventionally beautiful, and Carolyn is so obsessed with maintaining a perfect appearance and fitting inside the box perfectly that she often sacrifices her happiness.
Our first film screening had a short discussion following the movie, but it was a productive and positive discussion. We look forward to future film screenings and discussions with each other about the art of cinema.