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Themes in American Beauty

            The movie is about the american dream of living in a big house with a white picket fence, everything matches and the dishes sparkle. It is about the denial of a suburban couple's mid life crisis, their denial of their teenage daughter's depression. The neighbors who move in next door have an "emotionaly disturbed" teenage son; the Marines veteran father being strict to the point of being abusive, a product of his denial. The movie is about our cultural undercurrent of repressed sexual urges that surface in twisted manners. It is about the search for the joy, love and passion that people lose in their youth. It is about the power of denial. .
             The narrative that occurs at the beginning foretells the culmination of the events that follow. We're not quite sure who the 'hero' is, it's like watching a slice of suburban life gone wrong. In the sub-plot of Jane and Ricky's relationship, one can see the 'hero-ness' in Ricky who sweeps away Jane, the 'damsel in distress'. On the other hand, Ricky could be a villain in the sense that he somehow created a whole chain of events by re-introducing Lester to smoking pot, eventually causing Lester's death with his dad's anti-homosexual paranoia. Lester and Carolyn were helpless characters, having no control of what went on, like that bag in the whirlwind that Ricky videotaped. The beauty of Life that nobody notices. .
             The recurring symbol was that of the red rose: love, beauty and passion. The movie starts with Carolyn authoritatively cutting a red rose, her emasculating behavior already apparent. Lester's sexual fantasies were bathed in red rose petals, wildly free, flying in all directions. The boring family dinner is centerpieced by a tightly arranged little red rose bouquet, highlighting Jane, who sat behind them. The color red is a reminder of what is important: joy, love, youth. The drab decor of Ricky's parent's house symbolized a deadening oppression as Brad's office symbolized cold antiseptic efficiency: both symbolized military structure designed to rule and govern.

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