AT LACMA Fri 10.17.2014

Live Read Is Back with Adam Sandler as Lester “I rule!” Burnham in American Beauty

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“It’s so good to be back. It’s just so much more fun than directing movies,” Jason Reitman pronounced as he took his seat on stage last night for the Live Read of the Sam Mendes 1999 film American Beauty at Film Independent at LACMA— the first Live Read of the season. “I can’t even begin to tell you.”

“This is not recorded tonight,” Jason explained for the Live Read newbies in the sold-out house. “We live in a world where everything is available to everybody all the time. This is the one of those few things that is special, and that is only for the 600 people that are here tonight.”

Reitman also announced the rest of the Live Read season, which was met with great enthusiasm: Diner, The Empire Strikes Back—“I’m terrified of this one; it’s all action,” he confessed—Goodfellas, Sideways and Dazed and Confused. (Stay tuned for ticket info.)

For the first time in Live Read history, Reitman imported the cast from another film—his latest, Men, Women and Children—to read. Adam Sandler took center stage to play Lester Burnham, the role that landed Kevin Spacey his second Oscar in 2000. Sandler was flanked by Rosemarie DeWitt, who stole the show as Carolyn, the role originated by Annette Bening, (also nominated for an Oscar that year). DeWitt clearly relished the juicy part: Carolyn is the suburban striver trapped in a stale marriage and appalled by her husband’s mid-life meltdown. DeWitt dexterously slid her demeanor from contemptuously shrill to saccharinely fawning, depending whether Carolyn was addressing her husband or lover.

Kaitlyn Dever and Olivia Crocicchia dug into their roles as the couple’s angsty daughter Jane and Lester’s teen object-of-lust, Angela. Dever seethed with teen repugnance when she delivered lines like: “You’re so grossing me out right now.” “You’re such a lame-o.” And the spectacularly succinct: “Vomit.”

As Live Read regulars know, one of the most fun aspects of the endeavor is getting to appreciate the quality of the writing in some of the most iconic screenplays of all time, as Reitman reads the action and descriptions. American Beauty was no exception, thanks to Alan Ball’s Oscar-winning script, peppered with lines like “Even in her sleep Carolyn looks determined,“ or describing Carolyn’s expression: “like a fervent Christian who’s just come face to face with Jesus.”

Pamela Miller  / Website & Grants Manager

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The cast:
Adam Sandler as Lester Burnham, the role originated by Kevin Spacey
Rosemarie DeWitt as Carolyn, the role originated by Annette Bening. (She also doubled as the Colonel’s wife, played in the film by Allison Janney.)
Kaitlyn Dever as Jane, the role originated by Thora Birch
Olivia Crocicchia as Angela, the role originated by Mena Suvari
Travis Tope as Ricky, the role originated by Wes Bentley
Dean Norris as the Colonel, the role originated by Chris Cooper
Phil LaMarr as the Real Estate King, the role originated by Peter Gallagher