The Soundtrack of "American Beauty"

Essay by gmortner1High School, 11th gradeA+, June 2006

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One of the most important and interesting features of the film "American Beaut" was the music. It was incredible how director Sam Mendes knew the perfect songs to incorporate into the story being told. The soundtrack worked so well because it was not only used as background music for the film's events, but also it played a major role in the characters' and plot development.

The music from the soundtrack and the score was used extremely well when used as background music. The audience first encounter's Thomas Newman's Oscar nominated score for Lester's opening monologue. The joyful and uplifting music ironically compliments Lester's sad and yet humorous lifestyle and tone of voice. While the score is also played for the closing monologue, different parts of the song are played as background music in other scenes of the movie. One memorable scene in which the score was used was when Lester was focused on Angela at the cheerleading show.

Here we listen to the beating of a drum that is reminiscent of a tribal drum with crazed jungle noises in the background. This part of the score illustrates Lester's primitive desires for Angela. While Newman's score is used well in American Beauty as background music, it is the soundtrack that makes the music brilliant.

One of the most memorable aspects of "American Beauty" was how director Sam Mendes and screenplay writer Alan Ball incorporated music into the movie and had the characters interact with the music. The music was also used to trace the characters' development. Throughout the movie the characters would be listening and reacting to music. One of the first times this was recognized was when Jane questioned Carolyn's "elevator music" at dinner. While the request was originally shut down immediately, the same music was used later to...