“Imagination on a different level” An analysis of Sam Mendes’ American Beauty

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”

 “Beauty is a kind of quality it is something that is pleasing to one’s sight or mind Life is beautiful it explores the power of laughter to lift the human spirit even in the face of extreme tragedy. No matter what problems may come into our lives, we can take a little bit of time to realize life’s “beauty”.

The “beauty that addresses itself to the eyes is only the spell of the moment; the eye of the body is not always that of the soul.” George Sand hit the nail right on the head when he said this in 1872.

Appearances versus reality has been a central theme in many American creative works including the film American Beauty.

A beautiful piece of work by film masterfully first time Director Sam Mendes. Easily one of the most accomplished film debuts in the history of cinema. It deals with the problem of family and society, with humor and sadness. The movie is thoroughly depressing. Started out the with Lester who is depressed and steamy minded man talking about his life which is slow and depressing.

It is a story about a middle class white American Family trying to pursue the American dream, what I mean is reaching it as a family. The movie, nonetheless, is a movie that gives the viewers backstage passes to see how the perfect family, living in the flawless suburbs can really turn out to be and it is fantastic film that encourages viewers to “look closer” and this movie shows that us how our American society portrays that all that family to have the perfect relationships with one another.

Every scene within the movie influences each character in the movie as well as other scenes. The title is so effective because of the movie – seeing that kind of movie makes me observe real beauty – right here and art.

In American Culture red is a color of various meanings and images the color of blood. It can insinuate energy, vitality, passion, anger, power, excitement, and sacrifice. The story centers around a man named Lester Burnham (the wonderful Oscar winning Kevin Spacey) a man who has lost passion in his life. His wife Caroline (Annette Benning in an equally stunning performance) is a workaholic real estate agent.

Both are frustrated with their marriage which is basically just for show. Sexually frustrated Lester lusts for one of his daughter’s (Thora Birch) girlfriends, Angela (Menna Suvari). This lust begins Lester’s search for happiness in life – so he quits his job and begins to flip burgers just like when he was a kid. Caroline is very frustrated with the fact that she has to be the breadwinner of the family and has an affair. Meanwhile the boy next door, Ricky is videotaping the Burnham daughter Jane in particular. The two strike a chord with each other and begin a romantic relationship. Ricky’s father, Frank is who is – a homophobe suspects Ricky as a homosexual because he is spending some time with Lester, which of course is not true. All Ricky’s doing is scoring Lester some drugs. As the story progresses Lester gets used to Angela, and Angela starts to warm up to Lester.

There are some wonderfully, gut busting scenes involving razor sharp deliveries by both Benning and Spacey. This movie has a number of problems – Not everyone will be able to resolve them. I was, and realized the had anticipated them beforehand. The premise became clear, the more freedom we establish for ourselves, the more vulnerable we are to the misunderstandings of our families and neighbors. We struggle.

Most misunderstandings we resolve, but inevitably one of them does us in. That’s the problem, but also the beauty of the American lifestyle. Once in a while Hollywood needs to turn out a show like this to justify its existence. It’s a heart-throbbing for me. Although it probably wouldn’t have received a 10 if Spacey wasn’t playing the lead.

Easily the most convincing and memorable character/performance ever. It’s clear that many of the viewers of this movie didn’t understand the underlying themes. Although family is a part of the movie, it is not the central theme. The portrayal of family life is incidental, and is only part of the bigger picture. One viewer said that the movie relied on “rote cliche” and as pointed out by another one in point, this is deliberate.

Ultimately the film is about the desire to be free and the consequences of this desire in American culture. A culture is that supposedly is based on freedom. Lester wants to be free from his career and his dominant wife. Carolyn wants to be free from her own meticulous nature and self-doubt. Jayney wants to be free from her parents. Ricky wants to be free from his Dad’s expectations. Frank wants to be free to express his homosexuality. Angela wants to be free to be herself but for whatever reason plays a role instead. Despite living in the land of the free, every character experiences great difficulty in being who they want to be and the consequences for their desires are great.

[***SPOILER***] Lester is eventually killed, Carolyn’s marriage is ruined and her lover ends the relationship. Ricky is estranged from his father. Frank murders to keep his secret and so on. It is clear that one has to find a balance between the desire to be free and the social responsibilities that we live by.

The movie concludes that happiness and beauty is not in the grandiose religious, familial and economic pressures of ‘ordinary’ life, but is found in the daily appreciation of the little things we ignore as we try to ‘succeed’. We all want to be free, but the way we live doesn’t allow us to be. From director Sam Mendes and Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball American Beauty follows the final days of Lester, a middle-class man whose marriage and life is on the rocks.

Lester is not liked by his wife or daughter and is about to be sacked from his job. As a result he decides to live his life exactly how he wants, to the further frustration of his family. It is the ultimate American contradiction of wishing to be protected and yearning to be free at the same time. This is shown through the lives of the Burnham family. Lester with all his hopes banked in the past.. Lester had already improved his life for the better: he got in shape, changed his work situation, improved his mental well-being, and re-discovered the pleasures that he had long denied himself. But there had to be a line that he wouldn’t cross; there had to be a point where he decided that he could still be happy without having EVERYTHING he wanted. I think it was also important for Angela that she learn it’s not always good to have everything she desired.

His daughter Jane grasping for the future, and the perfect materialized wife in Carolyn. They are each trapped by the roles society has forced upon them or that they have forced on themselves. Sam Mendes asks, is it possible to have the comfort of safety and also maintain the thrill of freedom? Maybe the fault some find in American Beauty is that it does not answer any questions, but proposes many. It presents a story that is as complicated to the viewer as it is to the characters within it. It does not claim to have an answers because it knows there are a no clear- cut solution in our life. In the last scene, as far as Lester’s death, I like that he died content. Lester’s journey to finding happiness was complete. On the other hand, Frank lived unhappily and was going to die unhappy. It makes the audience question who was really the victim.


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