#ScreenplaySunday – AMERICAN BEAUTY by Alan Bail

#ScreenplaySunday is back! ‘American Beauty’ by Alan Bail has been on my radar since I started doing my reviews. The film was released in 1999 and received 5 Oscars, including: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kevin Spacey), Best Director (Sam Mendes), Best Cinematography, and most important for me: Best Writing, Written Directly for the Screen. I personally really enjoyed the Screenplay, and since I read it before watching the film, it was a real page turner! I hope you enjoy my review and I’ll see you next week! xo


THEMES – The themes in this story are so relevant to North American culture today. We are shown: life of a marriage, keeping an image of success, infidelity, the fear of being ordinary, homophobia, hidden sexualities, women using sex for power, employment termination, drug use, and firearm possession. I can’t even think of one North American issue that is not addressed in this story, and that to me is the biggest strength of this story.

NOVEL STRUCTURE – There were many aspects in this story that stood out to me because they resembled aspects of some of my favourite novels. I believe that Alan Bail went to the root of story telling with this project. There are so many cases of imagery and symbolism — from the roses to the weather. There was foreshadowing, mystery, and motive in every character. Every character served a purpose in the story and in the grand finale. All of these aspects make this story such a satisfying read.

LESTER’S FANTASY SEQUENCES – I loved the little scenes of fantasy that kept occurring from Lester’s point of view. I thought this was unique and very well done. To me, it was a genius way of showing a glimpse into the protagonists’ mind.

I SYMPATHIZE WITH EVERY CHARACTER – Part of what draws me to a story is it’s ability to make me love each character, even the villains. Part of loving them is showing their motive and their heart. This story not only did that beautifully, but had every character on a huge arc with huge change by the end of the screenplay. This script is any actor’s dream.


VOICE OVER – All of you reading the blog know that I LOVE voice overs. But for the first time, I found them overdone, confusing, and completely irrelevant and unnecessary to telling the story. I love voiceovers as a tool to show a characters inner monologue. There are some parts of this screenplay that did show that (specifically the end). However, many times the voice overs were only describing what was already shown, which I found to be redundant.


My favourite scene takes place between Lester and his cheating wife Carolyn. I love it because it really represented real life. I am no where near married and even I could relate to this short little scene. People change and more importantly, relationships change and evolve. And when we don’t embrace that, disaster strikes.

Christ, Carolyn. When did you become so… joyless?

(taken aback)
Joyless!? I am not joyless! There happens to be a lot about me that you don’t know, mister smarty man. There is plenty of joy in my life.

(leaning toward her)
Whatever happened to that girl who used to fake seizures at frat parties when she got bored? And who used to run up to the roof of our first apartment building to flash the traffic helicopters? Have you totally forgotten about her? Because I haven’t.

His face is close to hers, and suddenly the atmosphere is charged. She pulls back automatically, but it’s clear she’s drawn to him. He smiles, and moves even closer, holding his beer loosely balanced. Then, just before their lips meet…

(barely audible)
Lester. You’re going to spill beer on the couch.

She’s immediately sorry she said it, but it’s too late. His smile fades and the moment is gone.


In all, I love how human this script was. I love how the ending was foreshadowed, but it remained a mystery — a real page turner! I love that I was satisfied with the ending and that the set ups were all done tastefully. It is no shock to me that this script took home the Academy Award for Best Writing.

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