“Scandals intrigue people and this storyline is at the center of the script” – Extracts from a script report by our trainee Eirini Papadaki, based on a reading of AMERICAN BEAUTY found online at on The Daily Script website: CLICK HERE to read the script.
Title: AMERICAN BEAUTY FORM: SP
Author: Alan Ball Pages: 106
Date: 19/04/16 Locale: US
Lester Burnham (M/42), sexually frustrated, depressed, lonely, tries to turn his life around.
Jane Burnham (F/16), daughter of Lester and Carolyn Burnham, hates her parents, has low self-esteem, falls in love with Ricky Fitts.
Carolyn Burnham (F/40), wife of Lester, “a very well-put together woman”, real-estate agent, has an affair with Buddy Kane.
Ricky Fitts (M/18), boyfriend of Jane, deals drugs with Lester, son of Frank and Barbara Fitts.
Angela Hayes (F/16), “strikingly beautiful; with perfect even features, blonde hair and a nubile young body, she’s the archetypal American dream girl”, best friend of Jane, ‘object’ of desire for Lester, promiscuous.
Colonel Frank Fitts (M/ N/A), retired Colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps, strict, homophobic, prejudiced, dogmatic.
Barbara Fitts (F/“at least 10 years younger than her husband”), wife of Colonel Fitts, beautiful, catatonic.
Buddy Kane (M, N/.A), “The Real Estate King”, has silver hair, is married to a much younger woman who wants to divorce him, has an affair with Carolyn Burnham.
Logline: A 42 year-old father living in the suburbs finds himself in the midst of a mid-life crisis when he quits his job and becomes infatuated with his daughter’s best friend.
LESTER BURNHAM is a father, husband and an advertising executive living in the suburbs. His relationship with his wife CAROLYN BURNHAM, is estranged since she thinks that Lester is a loser and a boring person. Their daughter, JANE BURNHAM, despises them and has self-esteem issues. One day, during a basketball game, Lester meets Jenny’s friend, ANGELA HEYES, and his interest in life gets rejuvenated when he develops an infatuation for her. Moreover, a new family moves next to the Burhams. Retired COLONEL FRANK FITTS with his wife BARBARA and their son, RICKY, a teenager who is obsessed with filming everything with his camcorder and is also a part-time marijuana dealer.
Lester becomes fixated with Angela and starts sexually fantasizing about her. Meanwhile, Carolyn starts having an affair with a real estate agent, Buddy Kane. Lester gets fired by his boss BRAD DUPREE and he blackmails him for $60,000 and then, quits his job. Afterwards, Lester gets a job as a burger flipper at a fast food chain and trades his Toyota Camry for a 1970 Pontiac Firebird, his dream car. After finding out that Angela would be sexually attracted by him if he had a more fit physique, he starts working out. He also begins smoking marijuana which he buys from Ricky, and whenever Angela goes to his house to meet with Jane, he flirts with her. Angela’s friendship with Jane deteriorates when the latter starts a relationship with Ricky. The couple bonds over Ricky’s filmed imagery which includes a plastic bag being blown in the wind.
Lester finds out about Carolyn’s affair with Buddy, but doesn’t seem to care. Meanwhile, Buddy tells Carolyn that he wants to end the affair in fear of an expensive divorce from his much younger wife. Colonel Fitts discovers Lester and Ricky’s friendship and becomes highly suspicious and angry when he sees Ricky’s footage of Lester working out while nude. Thinking that his son is gay, he confronts Ricky and starts beating him. Ricky then, falsely admits that he’s in a relationship with Lester and the Colonel kicks him out of the house.
After her meeting with Buddy, Carolyn takes a gun out of the glove box of her car. Ricky visits Jane who is arguing with Angela about her flirting with her father. Then, Ricky persuades Jane to leave together and go to New York.
Later, Colonel Fitts meets Lester and tries to kiss him. Lester rejects him and he leaves while crying. Carolyn places the gun in her handbag while shouting “I refuse to be a victim!” Lester finds Angela upset and sitting alone in the dark. He tries to comfort her by telling her that she’s beautiful and then, starts to seduce her.
Carolyn drives towards her house while practicing how she’s going to confess her infidelity to Lester. Meanwhile, Lester is stroking Angela who discloses to him that she’s a virgin. Upon hearing that, Lester changes his mind about seducing her. Instead, he starts sharing his frustrations and Angela follows his lead. Angela goes to the bathroom and Lester looks at a family photograph and smiles.
Then, somebody raises a gun to his head, takes the shot and blood is sprayed all over the wall. Ricky and Jane discover Lester’s body and Carolyn bursts in tears in the closet. Colonel Fitts returns back home covered in blood and his gun collection is shown a gun missing. In the end, Lester narrates that even though he is dead, he is happy because “there’s so much beauty in the world”.
AMERICAN BEAUTY is layered with several themes; materialism (and the pursuit of the American Dream), the importance of physical appearance, change and beauty are the most apparent ones.
The American Dream is portrayed through the depiction of the Burnhams. They live in the suburbs, they have good jobs, a family, two cars and a lovely home. The character of Carolyn seems to be obsessed with materialism and what other people think about them. She takes pride in her house and possessions and believe that these are signals of success and happiness.
Most of the characters go through a positive change in the story. Lester tries to change his life and in the end, even though he dies, he seems happier and alive than ever because he appreciates life and its beauty. Jane falls in love and bonds with Rick who understands her better than anybody. When Angela washes her face in the bathroom, there is a glimmer of hope that she might give up the notion of always keeping a good appearance. Finally, Carolyn, even though she was about to kill Lester, seeing him murdered makes her collapse psychologically, which shows that she feels love and remorse for him.
AMERICAN BEAUTY has a plethora of characters and storylines that might not seem the most successful recipe for a script… Also, the script states the premise in the first scenes through the narration of Lester and the reader would probably get bored since Lester also reveals that he is going to die…
Even though the screenplay deals with serious and sensitive issues like physical abuse, stalking and murder, the writer manages to balance and tone down the psychological effect that these would have on an audience by having humorous lines that bring good laughs and amusement. Also, the script deals with a scandalous and controversial subject matter; Lester being infatuated with Angela, trying to have sex with her. Scandals intrigue people and this storyline is at the center of the script when Lester continuously has sexual fantasies about Angela.
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