"American Beauty" Film Analysis

1182 words - 5 pages

George Sand, French romantic writer, hit the nail right on the head when he said this in 1872: Appearance versus reality has been a central theme in many American creative works. The film American Beauty is not an exception. American Beauty is a motion picture that delves into your typical, middle-class suburban American home and slowly uncovers all of the abnormalities that lie within.In this case the Burnham family is portrayed as normal but as the film later suggests, things are not always as they seem. Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) at the age of 42 has become negative and indifferent about every aspect of his life. His spouse, Caroline (Annette Bening) is driven entirely by greed and desire for status and success in her profession that she has no time for any form of intimacy. Their daughter Jane (Thora Birtch) is an insecure, troubled teenager that only wants to find somebody that will understand and love her. These distressed characters through the years have taken refuge in routine and not confronted their true needs. In time they are awakened by different situations that drag them out of this monotonous routine and throw them into a complex cycle of self recognition and rebellion.Lester's awakening is prompted by two events: The first is the potential of unemployment, a situation which seems charmingly liberating. The second is Jane's best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari), an attractive teenager who captures his attention and arouses his sexual interest. Now, not having the responsibilities of a job he puts all his effort in reconstructing his appearance, his personality and his outlook on life. Carolyn's perspective is also changing. Frustrated by her relationship with her husband, she begins an affair with a fellow real estate agent who calls himself "The King" (Peter Gallagher). Meanwhile Jane, displeased with her physical appearance, is saving up for breast augmentation surgery something she clearly does not need. As the film progresses, she develops an unusual relationship with Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley), the boy next door. He views life through a video camera, trying to escape the reality of his problems. His mother (Allison Janney) is almost withdrawn from life and his father (Chris Cooper) is an ex-Marine neo-Nazi, a suppressed homosexual who submits his son's urine for drug testing every six months.At first the title "American Beauty" might insinuate that the film is based on the typical Hollywood prototype, In other words, a happy nuclear family free of any problems, living in a cosy house with a white picket fence. Quite the contrary. In fact, through the movie, the title seems to obtain at the same time an ironic and sincere tone. I find it slightly ironic because the movie contradicts the so called "American Dream" and all its beauty. It shows us the reality of American suburban life with all its abnormalities. The sincere tone is justified by the content of the film that encourages us to look at the beautiful side of things and...

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