Study Guide

American Beauty Love and Sex

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Love and Sex

The love/sex and family/marriage themes in American Beauty are definitely related, but they're still unique. The film ends up drawing a line between the satisfaction that comes from marriage and family life and the, er, satisfaction that comes from the intense lust that Lester feels for Angela.

Don't get us wrong—the film presents passion as important to life and happy relationships, but we can't ignore the fact that Lester's big epiphany comes when he foregoes lust (in the form of sex with Angela) and spends his last moments thinking only about his family.

Questions About Love and Sex

  1. What would you say is the most true, loving relationship in the film? What makes it significant?
  2. So, is the ultimate "message" that passion (sexual or otherwise) isn't as important as family bonds/relationships? Or are they equally important? Are they related?
  3. Do you find it troublesome that Lester's big realization about how much he loves his family comes at his death, without any actual resolution between himself, Carolyn, and Jane?

Chew on This

Lester's realization that his family is really at the core of the joy he experienced in life comes too late for him to mend relations with his wife and daughter—and that failure is a powerful reminder to the audience that we should be taking notes on how to avoid Lester's mistakes.

Lester's big epiphany about the importance of family is a flaw in the movie—a "life flashing before your eyes" realization of Carolyn's and Jane's importance is not a satisfying resolution to those relationships.

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