So I wanted to talk about my all-time favorite movie: American Beauty. It won the 1999 Academy Award for Best Picture, and for good reason…this movie is incredible. If you haven’t seen it, you need to see it. Point blank. It’s not like one of those movies like Star Trek or Avatar where you “need” to watch it to keep up with pop culture. You need to see it because it’s enlightening, dark, and real. American Beauty is an exceptionally brilliant film–great stars (Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Chris Cooper), incredible acting, and the plot line brings up amazing moral values and the question of the “American Dream.”
I could go on forever talking about the symbolic references in this movie. Lester (the main character) and Angela’s (the girl on the cover, with the rose) relationship, Lester’s crazy-ass wife Carolyn, or even Ricky’s relationship with his homophobic, abusive father. The movie focuses on several main themes: that appearances are only the surface (and the power of “beauty”), the power of deceit and lies, and the importance of being different, therefore finding true beauty in the world. Ricky, Lester’s teenage next-door, drug-dealing neighbor (who also falls in love with his daughter, Jane), is a side-character, and yet is one of the most important. He video-tapes everything he sees–from a dead bird in the grass, to a plastic bag drifting in the wind, to a homeless person freezing to death. He’s the freak at Jane and Angela’s high school–he doesn’t fit in, he’s rumored to be psycho, but he sees the true “American Beauty.” He says “there’s so much beauty in the world, and if you look close enough, you can see it. Like God is looking right at you, even for a moment.” Somewhat interesting that he feels true beauty is a dead bird or a dying homeless person, but Ricky might have a point.
To relate this back to education–I know I’ll have really, really weird students walk through my classroom. And it’s important to hear what they have to say, even if you don’t understand them. Because they might have the power to see “true beauty,” even if you don’t see it as beautiful. Also, just a side note, this actor (Wes Bently) is the same guy who played Seneca Crane in the Hunger Games (guy with the crazy beard who ran the games). Just thought that was cool–I didn’t make the connection until now.
So, continuing on my American Beauty rant–another really fascinating character is Angela Hayes. She’s the girl on the cover, the famous icon for “naked beauty in the rose petals.”
Angela becomes somewhat the centerfold for all the other characters. She’s Lester Burnham’s (main character’s) daughter’s best friend, most popular girl in school, and an absolutely gorgeous future-model. She is also a mighty liar. Claiming to have slept with every guy she sees, and pesters Jane about her relationship with Ricky, she slyly begins to seduce Lester in the same way. Overwhelmed with lust, Lester falls for her so fast he changes everything about himself–even risking his marriage (which wasn’t the healthiest marriage to begin with)–to win her over. The scenes with Angela and Lester are extremely erotic, not to mention slightly creepy, and very symbolic. Such as after he kisses her, he spits out red rose petals. The scene that stands out to me is his dream with her in the bathtub full of roses:
That being said, Angela doesn’t turn out to be all glorious and roses in the end. Moral of the story is to not fall for the seventeen-year-old gorgeous blonde model (obviously), but also to realize even the prettiest, most popular girl in school suffers with her own inner demons. Sometimes the person with the most attention also struggles with the worst problems inside. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for that as I see girls like Angela Hayes in my school, or even in my classroom.
I’m going to stop myself from analyzing and evaluating the other characters–the story is so complex that it would take me all night. But, this is a taste of American Beauty. If you haven’t seen it, go out and rent it or buy it. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll stay up all night thinking about it. If you haven’t been convinced yet, watch this.
Hope you guys had a good weekend! -Natalie