Film, Sitcom, Thriller, Or A Moral Fable?

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Fantasy, sitcom, thriller, or a moral fable? The answer is “all of the above” when attempting to categorize the film American Beauty into one genre. Some may say this movie is about a marriage gone very bad. Others claim it to be about the meaning of life. In my opinion, the film resists any one interpretation. While it is difficult to pinpoint the meaning of the movie, it is not difficult to conclude that each character is struggling with his or her own problems and that each character grows to a great extent throughout the film.
The motion picture passes the Bechdel test, but in my opinion, barely so. Just about every exchange between two women segues in and out from mentioning a man, talking about a man, or is in the presence of a mentioned man. Of course, there a few conversations which allow the movie to pass. For instance, Carolyn Burnham (Annette Bening) slapping her daughter Jane (Thora Birch) after Jane witnesses a fight between her parents at the dinner table and proceeds to tell Carolyn that she “doesn’t feel like having a Kodak moment.” when Carolyn starts crying. Another passing conversation takes place when Carolyn and Jane briefly talk about Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari) sleeping over. There are other conversations which do not directly concentrate around male characters, but they are mostly about the extent to which the female characters are valuable by patriarchal standards. For instance, Angela talking to Jane about how terrible it is to be average.

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