With the use of symbols and the title of the film itself, American Beauty lets us examine the characters and their philosophies (American dream, their concepts of success, beauty, etc.), both as they are and as they are perceived. Nobody in the film is actually as they seem. Ultimately, the creepiest (Ricky) is the nicest, the successful woman is an unstable wreck and the American beauty is pretty clear.
The red rose pedals, which appear several times in American Beauty, are a symbol of love, sensuality and vitality. However, it is important to note that during most of the film the red roses are implicitly an illusion. The red roses in the context of an illusion are faced with a sugar-coated reality.
By sugar coating I mean what covers the natural stimulation (taste, sight, touch) by "sweetening" it. In all but one of the scenes, the red paddles are around Angela covering her naked body in a way that makes everything beneath it much more seductive through the use of sensual shades of red and the sexiness of mystery. Not to mention extreme spectacles that often accompany Lester's dream scenes.
In the scene where Lester finally gets what he wants, Angela has no red paddles around her. Unlike her breasts in the first scene covered with lively pedals, this scene reveals her body for what it is, we love that Lester starts to feel that Angela might not be all she was. It is not that Angela is not beautiful, it is that no one could live up to the expectations of God that created the wild fantasies of Lester.
After Lester discovers that Angela is a virgin and not at all what he thought she was, he goes to the kitchen and takes a picture of his family. While Lester looks at a photo of his family that says "man oh man ...", a bucay of red roses (exactly the same as the one shown before) is shown for about 5 seconds. Unlike all previously shown, these roses are not really a dream. Also unlike the roses shown earlier, they are associated with his family and not with Angela. In this context, the roses do not represent a sugar coating but real love, sensuality and vitality. A little later we see a puddle of red blood. Shortly thereafter we experience, through video editing that flashes the life of Lester before his eyes, the love, sensuality and vitality that the photo represented.
The theme that things are not what they seem is not unrelated to Lester's vision of Angela. Carolyn says several times in the film that you must always project success in order to ultimately become successful. Lester also tells Ricky & # 39; s father that his marriage is "... just for the show".
Many of the characters seem to be obsessed with how people perceive them, but pay little attention to the reality of things. Ricky & # 39; s father who hates homosexuality, and makes it known several times in the film, eventually turns out to be sexually interested in men. Carolyn and Buddy are obsessed with & # 39; successful & # 39; to appear and make others think they are part of a & # 39; normal & # 39; family, the struggle to look like this to both of them makes them emotionally unstable and tears them apart from their families.
American Beauty because of its contrast between reality and perceived reality, let us examine what American beauty is, the American Dream, and how real the promises these stories offer.