I’ve seen American Beauty at least 50 times, but even after so many views, there is always something new I haven’t noticed before.
I was always aware of the color red appearing repeatedly in the movie – red is the color of roses present in several scenes, Lester’s new car (1970 Pontiac Firebird), door of Burnham’s house etc., but only recently, I noticed this color scheme: Red, blue and white. It’s hilarious how often these three colors appear simultaneously on the screen in various combinations and in various forms throughout the whole movie. Here are some examples:
Lester’s office (notice for example the handles of scissors on the table),
Lester’s suitcase (notice the color of papers and folders),
but probably the most noticeable is the Burnham’s house.
White walls, blue window shutters and red door. The same color scheme is found also inside the house.
I’m not sure what these colors mean, what do they represent and why, but they were used without any doubt on purpose. The importance of color further proves one of the first sentences of Lester Burnham: “That’s my wife Carolyn. See the way the handle on those pruning shears matches her gardening clogs? That’s not an accident.”
Maybe the color scheme shows certain stereotype, or materialistic world of Lester’s wife Carolyn (she wears colors matching the colors of their house – red, white and blue – and gets furious and angry when Lester – almost – spills the beer on the couch).
Honestly, I don’t know, what does the color scheme of red, white and blue mean. But sometimes, the questions are more important than answers. Maybe Sam Mendes doesn’t know either, or does he?
P.S. There is a short article trying to answer, what does the color RED mean in the movie, well worth reading!