American Beauty/Headscratchers

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  • The ending. Lester may have escaped into eternity with a little smile and a moment of epiphany, but the lives of his family and neighbors are about to become a living hell.
    • Creepily, his final narration indicates his belief that whatever hell anyone goes through, everyone will ultimately be happy...when they're dead like him.
    • I get the feeling that when the dust clears, they'll all be better for it. I feel like they were so detached from real life, maybe that will bring them back and learn to appreciate things the way he had. At least, that's what I hope.
    • An early draft of the screenplay (dig around, it's online) is actually bookended with scenes showing his daughter and her boyfriend behind bars and on trial for Lester's murder, the main evidence being the video footage shown at the very start of the film. I think in one draft at the end they're even found guilty. The Mena Suvari character is a key witness, gets "discovered" and ends up a TV star on a Baywatch-style show.
  • It's always just bugged me that this entire film could have been "solved" with the skillful applications of a marriage counselor,a few ass whoopings and a vacation or two.
    • Er, yeah. The point of the movie is that all the characters (and, by extension, suburbia) are dysfunctional. Not seeing the problem here.
      • So suburbia is dysfunctional because it demands that men look after their families instead of running off?
        • Carolyn cheated first. She was the one running off.
    • Just never saw the "complexity" of the story. If the protagonists had stopped navel gazing and acted like responsible adults, the film would have ended after about 10 minutes or so. I like my stories w/ a little more "meat" on their bones.
      • That would be the point. They should, yes, by all rights have all acted more responsibly (with the possible exception of the kids, being, well, kids). But--they weren't. They were trapped in their dysfunctional neuroses--or trapped navel-gazing--that they couldn't see what life really could have to offer. They were trapped, so couldn't see what they should do, what they could be. That, again, is kind of the point of the story.
  • Why is it okay for Lester to lust after a high school girl, but when he suddenly finds out that she's a virgin, he thinks it's morally wrong? Lester's lust for her squicked me out as much as anybody, but she'd still be a kid, irresponsible, inexperienced, whether she was the slut that she claimed to be or not. Many adult celebrities who are of age are still children because they never had to deal with the real responsibilities of the world. I just don't get why her being a virgin comes into this. Why it's okay to take advantage of an emotionally unstable sexually active teenager but not an emotionally unstable virgin teenager.
    • The director's commentary says what they were going for in that scene is: Lester doesn't see her as a sex object any more, but as a daughter figure. It's not just that she's a virgin: the way she says it shows Lester that she isn't really ready for sex. It's also Lester seeing her body, and seeing that she's just a young girl (rather than the slut she dresses and acts like). The pivotal scene between Lester and Angela really comes a few scenes earlier: Angela flirts, Lester flirts back ("You like muscles?"), and Angela backs off. Angela's not a slut, but she acts like one in order to manipulate desperate men; and Lester isn't desperate any more. He's given the perfect opportunity to take advantage of Angela, but no longer wants to.
  • How come Mrs. Burnham's sofa is a meaningless material possession, and Mr. B's (admittedly cool) 1971 Firebird isn't?
    • Carolyn was letting possessions like the sofa define who she was, while Lester certainly desired the Firebird but didn't let it get in the way of what was important in life, like love.
    • I daresay he wouldn't have minded having beer spilled in his car if they were having sex - making progress in their relationship. This is the line between Carolyn and Lester - he's willing to make concessions to bring them back together, Carolyn is not.
  • How did Col. Fits know that Ricky had touched his Nazi plate? He didn't actually see Ricky do it, and it looked like the plate was put back the way it was. When and how did he find out?
    • Ricky left the cabinet door unlocked.