"American Beauty"

Essay by syunukiya December 2005

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"I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me. But it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and not try to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain. And I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I'm talking about I'm sure. Don't worry....you will someday." The "stupid little life" that Lester Burnham refers to embodies the meaningless, empty actions which he repeats daily with no particular purpose. Sam Mendes' "American Beauty" introduces Lester as presently dead, and merely overlooking what used to be his life. The individual members of his dysfunctional, joyless family, as well as that of Ricky Fitts, strive to find happiness and connect with others.

These two families represent the typical American populace, and it's perspective on life. Using both dialogue and thematic elements, the film allows us to convey the standard suburban family, struggling to maintain a routine that portrays superficiality, materialism, selfishness, and deception.

This is a film with several motifs that surround each character. Their shallow and dense personalities intensify the plot and inevitably lead to their downfalls. American Beauty therefore, is far richer thematically than most usual Hollywood films. The superficiality of the American society is saturated within each character. They are excessively concerned with appearances, clinging to the physical matter and disregarding the substance. Indeed, many of the characters explicitly state this sensibility. We are fooled by these appearances, and often fail to see what lies beneath the surface, blinded by...