Story line of

Ame r Ican Beauty

“ As a film-maker, I look for three elements which relate to aesthetic aspect of film – Contrast, Rhythem, and Pace. Contrast relates to both emotional and visual aspects. While Rhytem and Pace have to do with the unfolding of the narrative, using all the devices at ones disposal. I also believe that film should have to grow organically with all it’s part inter related and everything adding up to a harmonious whole. “ - Mr. S.Ray ( Oscar winner) “ American Beauty “ is one of the best example to learn about story writing and screenplay writing. It’s very well knitted and integrated story. All events are very well written and linked to next event and basic theme. It’s very important that each event should contain purpose and should contribute something to film’s basic issue. Basic Issue in American Beauty is Rift in Family, which develops during Film and explodes at the climax. Each scene, movement or sub-plot is stemming out of this basic issue and leads towards common climax. Following I have explained all sequences to explore and clarify the Pace of Film, the interconnection of scenes (Rhythem) , character’s inner-conflict while unfolding of narrative( contrast ). All elements of movie represent well-knitted grid which seems very hilarious on surface but contains harsh reality underneath for one who can understand. So let’s explore “ American Beauty “ Sequence 1 Lester wakes up, baths, and goes to office in his Wife’s car. He attends office. He takes dinner with family and he observes that somebody is shooting video of his family. Analyzing:
Film has shown one full day of one man’s life, Lester. Through this journey of Camera what we come to know is Lester is one boyish faced, 42 year old man who is very passive and low spirited by nature. He doesn’t get enough love and care from his family. His is shattered family. • • Carolyn is Lester’s wife and she is no more interested in him, She is real estate agent and She thinks that her husband is hopeless and very stupid. Jane is Lester’s daughter and she is very insecure and reluctant girl. She is not happy with her parents.

Day ended with camera on photograph of happy family, means that they were happy in past. In short, There is rift in Lester’s family. We also came to know that they got new neighbor and One boy is shooting video of their family, Questions arises Who is that Boy ????, Why he is filming Lester’s family ??

 Sequence 2 It’s Basketball game show and Jane tells Angela that her parents are attending her show and that’s what she hates most. Lester also doesn’t want to attend her show

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and he wants to watch Jame Bond Marathon, but Carolyn wants him to attend. In show, Lester comes across “ Angela “ and He is mesmerized totally. He felt in love with her, enchanted by her beauty. He watches dreams about her, “ Angela “ brings freshness and animation in his life. He feels SPEC TA CU LAR. In unison, While coming back from Basketball game Teen age girls make jokes on Lester’s crush on Angela. After leaving Angela’s car Jane senses Rickie’s crush on her. Next morning, Lester tries to call Angela , by sneaking no. from Janes’s diary. Jane feels very awkward, when she knows this. Her awkwardness is being filmed by Rickie. Now camera’s PoV shifts and We have been introduced to Rickie’s family. Colonal and Barbara. Colonal meets JIMs and he hates them. Colonal drives Rickie to college while cursing JIMs.. Parallaly Jane and Angela is standing at college and Angela talks about her affairs. Rickie joins them, and Angela tells Jane that he is psyco. Rickie and Jane talks first time. Jane finds him interesting. Analyzing:
Starting from Basket ball game to Rickie-Jane meeting, it’s one sequence. All scenes are reaction to previous scene. F.eks. First scene of sequence is There is Basketball game and Jane is participating in it. Lester has to attend that show, since Jane is participating. Lester attends and he sees Angela over there. He gets spellbind ---• From here next plot started, new conflict added to story, but it is attached to sequence, it is not just pop-up but it’s part of sequence and therefor it looks natural.

---- After that Lester falls in love with his daughter’s friend, he becomes comedian for Audience. He supplies comic relief and sexual tension to Audience. He dreams about her. He looks like joker and in parallel Rickie and Jane comes nearer since they are in same college ---• Point to be noted that Writer has chosen to put Rickie and Jane in same college so that they can come closer. This is a step which is needed to develop the story.

--- Colonal and Barbara’s characters introduced. Colonal hates homosexuals and Barbara is living in her own world. There is silent tension in their family. Rickie seems very over obedient. Angela talks about her affairs and tries to portray her as very mature girl who knows everything about Sex and boys. In short there is two love stories started, teen to teen and old to teen. As events are unfolding, Audience pulled in deeper into story, into character’s point of views.

 Sequence 3 Corolyn tries intensely to sell a house but she fails. She is very angry, annoyed and shattered by her failure. She is very disturbed by her competent,,, Leonard. Carolyn is frustrated lady, but she wants to build and maintain image of “success” and which is the reason of her frustration.

New sequence started means this scene has no relation with it’s previous one. Camera was on Corolyn, and Audience has only information that Carolyn is Lester’s wife and she is real estate agent. Leonard is her competent in business world. Leonard’s character is not

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presented yet but through a Poster, it is been revealed that Leonard is Carolyn’s competent. I

Here is the text of that scene: “ Corolyn’s POV: IN front OF a DIFFERENT HOUSE with much More curb appeal is another SIGN, with a picture of the same silverhaired MAN we saw on the bus stop bench earlier. It reads: FOR SALE Call Leonard Kane - the Real Estate King 555-1957 Carolyn frowns and slams the BACK OF the MERCEDES shut, a little harder than necessary. “ Carolyn’s frowning and slamming of back of the Mercedes shut little harder than necessary depicts that she is annoyed by Leonard. It’s shown rather than told which is perfect use of cinematic medium. This sequence was intended to show Carolyn’s inner struggle and thus add one more conflict in story and this sequence has exposed Carolyn MORE to audience, more information about Carolyn’s nature has been given. As film grows, Audience acquaintance with Character should also grow so that it understands Character’s action and re-action better. As I written earlier that this sequence was intended to depict Carolyn’s inner struggle, so first it has established base for it. Sequence has shown that how desperate Carolyn is to sell that house, she cleans, rubs floor, scrabbles sink .. etc. etc., but at the end of Day she is not able to sell. It frustrates her most. Here is the text of last part of that scene: “ Carolyn enters, alone. She's furious, much more furious than she should be. She locks the sliding glass door and starts to pull the vertical blinds shut, then stops. Standing very still, with the blinds casting shadows across her face, she starts to cry: brief, staccato SOBS that seemingly escape Against her will. Suddenly she SLAPS herself, hard. CAROLYN Stop it. But the Tears continue. she SLAPS herself again. CAROLYN (cont'd) Weak. Baby. Shut up. Shut up! She SLAPS herself repeatedly until she stops crying. “ • Images of “ crying and slapping “ brings about inner conflict of Carolyn And it creates stark contrast on screen which is easily comprehensible and perfect depiction of Carolyn’s inner frustration.

 Sequence 4

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Carolyn and Lester goes to Party as a couple, just to present Image of “ healthy family”. Lester hates this show-off. Carolyn meets Leonard, and Lester vents out his pent up anger by “ Kissing Carolyn forcefully “. Fatigued Lester meets Rickie over there. Rickie brings euphoria in his life by giving dopes to him. They become friends. Simultaneously Angela is at Jane’ s home. When they come back to home from party, Lester finds Angela and he is mesmerized again. Jane feels very awkward by Lester’s lousy attitude. Angela tells exciting things to Jane about her Father. Lester listens and gets over-excited. He listens that Angela wants him to work out and shape his body. He starts working out in a flesh. Under an extreme excited fit, he pants down and starts lifting dumbbells. Rickie who was already shooting Jane, shoots this posture of Lester. Colonal’s knocking interrupts his shooting. He stops shooting and gives Urine-Sample to his father. He cheats by saying that he was watching “ Topgun”. Lester sinks in his erotic fantasies again. His wife, Carolyn wakes up as she listens rhythmic brush of his masturbating. She gets wild. But Lester ignores her. There is change started in Lester’s character. Analyzing:
We get information about Lester’s growing lust; Carolyn’s enthrallment over Leonard ; Relation between Rickie and Lester ; and Rickie’s reality. Sequence starts from Party scene, and ends up with bad room quarrel. Whole sequence look very natural and realistic because it is based on real-time-frame. f.eks “ Lester went to party along with his wife, he met Rickie over there. He went back home and he found Angela. Angela told something to Jane so he got excited that he started exercise at once. Excited Lester dreamed about Angela and started masturbating on bad. His wife saw this and they fought. “ It’s real-time-frame. One can easily say that all these could have happened within span of 5-6 hours. I will call this as continuity of movie. As I written earlier as film proceeds, different aspects of character should be also unfolded to provide emotional mobility to film. While changing Camera from one place to another, film maker provides physical mobility to film and by unfolding various mental aspects of character, film maker provides emotional mobility, which I call pace of movie. Again dualistic images of character creates stark contrast on screen that produces ambiguity in Audience: Obedient boy like Rickie sells drugs ; Man masturbating on his bad while wife is sleeping next to him. All events are prefect in this sequence, but referring to one most hilarious event in this regard, is when Lester is found masturbating on bad and Carolyn senses this. On surface it’s hilarious comedy for adults but underneath one can easily sense the core issue of movie and that is Rift in Family. Conflict prevailing between Carolyn and Lester is reached to it’s highest point now. It needs new direction now, which is transformation of Lester’s character. Lester moves from Passive to Active character ( emotional mobility). Motivation for this transformation is in form of “ Angela “. “ Angela “ changes Lester and this change views in Lester’s argument with Carolyn after she sensed his masturbation. here is text of scene: “ LESTER This hasn't been a marriage for years. But you were perfectly happy as long as I kept my mouth shut. Well, guess what? I've changed. And

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the new me whacks off when he feels horny, because you're obviously not going to help me out in that department. CAROLYN (furious) Don't mess with me, mister, or I will divorce you so fast it'll make your head spin! LESTER On what grounds? I'm not a drunk….. She's stunned - it's clear he knows where she's most vulnerable. He sees this, and likes it; it feels good to win for a change. He curls up under the covers contentedly. LESTER (cont'd) Turn the light off when you come to bed, okay? Carolyn just sits there, staring at him with absolute hatred.. “ For any Actor, noticeable here is changing character of Lester means changing temperament of Lester. Actor should try to reach at mental temperament of character to enliven the character.

 Sequence 5: Lester is jogging in a full swing. New Lester is beaming out. Colonal notices Lester’s jogging with Gays. As Rickie leads Lester to his Room, Colonal finds something Fishy. Lester knows about URINE SAMPLE and he purchases more marijuana. Analyzing:
Film has exposed Lester, Carolyn, Rickie and Jane. Only main character left to be exposed is Colonal. This sequence does this. Right from beginning Colonal has been preoccupied with JIMs (Homosexuals). Lester’s jogging with Jims; his signs to Rickie; …. all these lead Colonal up to hang up and one more conflict added in Story. Characters as JIMs are perfectly used. Audience has given information that Colonal is pre-occupied with Homosexuals But reason for his obsession is not revealed. This is to strengthen the attention of Audience. Growing Relation between Lester and Rickie also adds up interest in Movie.

 Sequence 6: Lester converts Garage into training room. And when Carolyn finds that, she gets wild. But it’s no use. Lester is now more powerful and transformed character…. more live, more energetic and persuasive. Analyzing:

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Lester tries to be Angela’s dream-boy” by adapting teen-age’s sensations. He works out on lifting-bench having loud music on and this visual is totally weird for his so-called wife Carolyn. She can’t decide how to react ?? It looks weird, strange, elusive but still funny. This is advancement of Lester’s transformation that has taken place in previous sequence.

 Sequence 7: Lester resigns. In unison, Carolyn meets Leonard, enraptured by his style and makes love with him. Rickie and Jane comes closer in college. Angela refuses to have sex with Jook. Lester feels relaxed after leaving his job. He joins Smiley’s. Rickie introduces Jane to his mother. Rickie shows video tapes and nazi plate. They acknowledge each-other love. Jane is late for dinner. Carolyn is upset since Lester is resigned from his job. But Lester is different character, he revolts and he successes. Jane gets disturb by Lester and Carolyn’s dispute. Colonal watches two JIMs kissing, which upsets him. Carolyn tries to cajole Jane but cajolery results in Quarrel. Depressed Jane starts exposing her self to Rickie. Rickie’s shooting interrupted by Colonal. Colonal beats him by shoving him against wall. He is angry since Rickie has opened his closet, but underneath he is venting out his anger on Rickie caused by Jims. Colonal leaves Rickie, feels sorry but doesn’t tell. He goes to his room and watches one old photograph. Colonal watches Lester working out in Dark.

Since all the characters have established themselves in Audience’s mind-set, Film’s Pace ( emotional flow ) is being speeded up from this particular sequence, but continuity and contrast remains as it is. Following information has been given: • Lester has left his job, and started work in Smiley’s • Relation between Carolyn and Leonard intensifies • Rickie reveals his philosophical aspect to Jane • Colonal’s obsession intensifies Story’ s basic issue “ Rift in Family” is intensifying and all members of family are engrossed in their own world, regardless of other members at all. Lester doesn’t care about Jane while going mad after her friend “ Angela “. Carolyn doesn’t think about her family when she is making love with Leonard. Jane is totally not bothered about her family. So ‘ Rift “ I am talking about is wider and clearly visible now. The most intellectual person in whole movie is Rickie and this is revealed as he describes his thoughts to Jane. He talks about very deep and spiritual thing. Here is the text of that scene that depicts Rickie’s inner soul: “ RICKY It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was like, dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen

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minutes. And that's the day I knew there was this entire life behind things, and ... this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever. A beat. RICKY (cont'd) Video's a poor excuse. But it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Now JANE is watching him. RICKY (cont'd) (distant) Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in. “

Deep contrast is produced on screen when ; • Young boy like Rickie speaks highly spiritual and mature man like Lester drools after teen girl “ Angela “. • Carolyn sleeps with her competent “ Leonard ” • Colonal beats Rickie severally and vents out his pent-up anger caused by Jims.

 Sequence 8: Carolyn joins firing club. When she comes back, she notices that Lester has purchased new car. Lester tries to get closer to her but he fails. Jane and Rickie makes love and they exchange views, clears point of Views. Analyzing: Film is changing it’s gears. Interestingly, at this time everybody looks happy and charged even Audience too. Carolyn is enjoying with his prince “ Leonard “, Lester is enjoying his job with “ least amount of responsibility “ and Jane and Rickie experiencing wonderful world of Love.  Sequence 9: Lester and Jane disputes over Angela. Colonal is confused over gesture exchange between Lester and Rickie. He searches Rickie’s room and gets videotape, which is showing Nude Lester lifting. He is transfixed. Analyzing:
This is last day of Film. So everybody is clearing his or her doubts. Films is winding up it’s conflicts now. Time has came to reach at certain conclusion. Now it’s time for merge all the subplots towards one direction, and integrate them all.

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 Sequence 10: Lester finds Leonard and Carolyn’s affair. He calls Rickie for more Joint. Colonal misinterprets their attitude. There is fight between Angela and Jane due to Rickie. Jane could not tolerate Rickie’s insult. When Rickie is back, Colonal blames Rickie for being Homosexual. Rickie leaves home and goes to Jane. Rickie and Jane plans to leave city. Colonal hugs Lester and his inner reality gets reveled which have been hidden under cloak of Discipline. Lester and Angela meets, and intimate movements occur. Carolyn frustrates over life. Jane and Rickie plans to leave city. Lester and Angela tries to have sex, but Lester sees confused child finally. He understands and helps Angela to get back to normalcy. At the end he got shot by Colonal. Rickie and Jane got blamed for his murder because of video tape recording, which is shown as First scene of Movie. Here is text of that video recording :
“ JANE I need a father who's a role model, not some horny geek-boy who's gonna spray his shorts whenever I bring a girlfriend home from school. (snorts) Like he'd ever have a chance with her. What a lame-o. Somebody really should put him out of his misery. A beat. JANE plays with her hair, lost IN thought. RICKY (O.C.) Want me to kill him for you? JANE stares at the camera incredulously, then LAUGHS. JANE Yeah, would you? “

Lester didn’t made love with Angela because finally he realizes that Angela is nothing but a confused child. Not only Lester but We sitting in Audience, enjoying erotic movements of Angela, also realized this heart-shaking fact. Carolyn a woman of 21st century is most suffering character of our time, hanging between personal carrier and family responsibility. Jane and Rickie ( Youth ) is moving towards unknown future !!! The biggest contrast of film is that film took sudden spin at the end:  Lester was mad to make love with Angela, and that lust has changed him, charged him, transformed it but at the end he didn’t do it !!!!  Colonal was shown as anti-homosexual throughout most of film and at the end Audience found that he was one of those he was hating most !!!!!


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There is one film, namely “ Life is Beautiful (1998 ) “ was about one father who fought to save his son and his family in most awkward situation. Film was moving towards integration of family, enhance faith in love, re-establish family values. While our film “ American Beauty “ is having same message but it has taken different way. While “Life is Beautiful” is resolves it’s purpose by showing INTEGRATION, American Beauty resolves same purpose by emphasizing “ DISINTEGRATION”. As conclusion, I want to write last words of Movie spoken by Lester ; “ LESTER continues to FLY above the clouds, LAUGHING. LESTER (V.O.) And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... He's SOARING higher and higher... LESTER (V.O.) (cont'd) You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure... but don't worry... And He SOARS out OF sight. LESTER (V.O.) (cont'd) You will someday. Yah,, Some day We will… I Hope … Fade to Black

Written by Vadan Mehta Date : 19/2/2001

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