The American dream is something that has been desired since the creation of the United States with immigrants coming from all over for a fresh start and an opportunity for great success and financial freedom. The definition of the American dream can mean different things to people but to sum it up the American dream usually means to have the freedom to own your own property, living a dignified life and financial success investopedia.
The movie American Beauty shows what can happen when one achieves the American dream and it is not what many would expect. The director Sam Mendes shows us what we sacrifice in our lives when we achieve the American dream because life tends to go stale within the confines of a picket-fence, consumerist, and career-driven version of the American dream journal.
The main character Lester Burnham played by Kevin Spacey is a man who is growing older and is unloved by his daughter; ignored by his wife and unnecessary at work because their life is so mundane and consumed by the American dream.
American Beauty displays the family as trapped by the ideology of the American dream and the need to find balance and escape from the reality of the American dream, breaking away from the norm; the movie is a tale of liberation, to live with satisfaction after you achieve what is considered the American dream.
To summarize the film, the main character Lester Burnham is a 42 year old father, husband and advertising executive. His wife Carolyn is an unsuccessful realtor and his 16 year old daughter Jane is unhappy and struggles with self- esteem issues.
Lester then crashes and makes a life changing choice by black mailing his boss, quits his job and trades his current car for a nice red sports car. Fitts notices the growing relationship between his son and Lester and suspects that they are having a homosexual affair. While his family is falling apart Col. Fitts witness what he thinks is an act homosexuality between his son and Lester, he is filled with rage and murders Lester in his home.
The film concludes with the narration of Lester being content with his death and the realization that there is so much beauty in the world and he is felt with so much gratitude for every single moment of his stupid little life American Beauty.
The director uses cinematography and characters to develop the overall theme of the movie. An example of cinematography is how the director uses colors in the background or objects in scenes to convey a message.
The Burnham family is a symbol by having a white picket fence, blue window shutters, and red roses; red, white, and blue are true American colors. The film also utilizes the color red to represent the color of desire, Lester with the red Pontiac and red rose pedals for his desire for Angela, also Carolyn with the red roses Journal. In scenes throughout the movie when Lester desires Angela she is encased in red roses, his desire for her overcomes him in multiple scenes.
In many scenes involving Carolyn she has red roses in the scene and when she sees her love affairs billboard his background of the ad is red displaying her desire for him. That shows how the family is trapped in the ideology of the American dream and the need to desire something else in order to be happy. Material possessions and looking successful is a recurring theme throughout the film. Another instance is where Carolyn cannot sell a house; she abuses herself in front of a mirror: In a comparison of scenes of the Burnham family we see an important shift of how the family operates after Lester decides that he is not going to be tied down to the American dream.
The first scene of dinner, the room is lit bright with light blue wallpaper decorated with happy family pictures and classical music playing in the background.
In fact, in the American Beauty they symbolize beauty. However, these aspects of the red roses are superseded with peril due to their thorns, which can pierce. The title American Beauty is suitably explained with the use of the red roses as well as Angela, who is an ideal America woman with her long blonde hair, her red lips, blue eyes and her porcelain skin tone.
The use of the red rose as a symbol of beauty, however, is not without flaws; the roses have thorns which are dangerous and the red colour is also a representation of blood that can mean death. All in all, red roses both a motif and stand for symbols in the film; they appear in almost every part of the movie.
For instance, they are seen in the garden; and more or less every room in the dwelling have red roses. Furthermore, in they are the focus to the table in the dining room. It is worth to note that it at this table that the family is delineated. The petals of the red rose are also used to represent sex.
The colour red is also significant as a central motif in the film as shown with the red front door of the house. To note, this red door house is constantly referred to by the neighbours throughout the movie; it is known as the house with a red door. Moreover, Lester flees from this lonely and cold dwelling through a domain that is framed in brown, and this isolates Lester further from the previous monochrome existence.
Sam Mendes highlights that by using melancholy, bland colours to surround the house and spaces them far from each other. Other neighbours such as Jim and Jim who are very successful and initially seem to be abnormal, are shown in cheery and bright clothes Gavrelis, 4 of primary colours, and are very lively.
Contrastingly, these characters are the most normal in the whole movie. Colour, thus, is employed to both show juxtaposition in neighbourhoods as well as portray the characters. The core of every character is cleverly captured with colour.
Initially, Lester is shown in unsaturated chilly colours to insinuate a drained life and lack of vigour. However, as the movie progresses and Lester is transformed we begin to witness him in brighter view of life and his garments colours changes as well; they change to yellow, to green and ultimately to red. Further, Lester dons a red top, buys a red car and works in a job while in a white and red white costumes.
Sam employs this transformation of colour to elaborate that Lester recalls what he initially wanted in life; he notices the void in his life. The red outfits give Lester a sense of control and power over his own life.
This transformation started as result of his initial encounter with Angela, who is the symbol of American beauty. Angela wears red outfits throughout the entire film. Moreover, she adorns red lipstick and bright colour clothes. These colours bring out passion and sexual sensations. Red is also dominant in lipstick and nail polish for every woman in the movie. Caroline Burnham, a central female character, undergoes transformation as well.
Although she outwardly seems controlling and isolated, inside she desires for power and passion. This is skilfully shown at the start of the film where Caroline wants to clean the house and she removes her clothes to reveal a red camisole beneath her yellow suit. Moreover, while Caroline cleans the shadowy and dark house the back is a brightly lit wall. Further, Caroline experiences a personal breakdown Gavrelis, 5 and conceals her weeping face with the red nails, thus masking her atypical conduct.
Carolyn tries to make up for her loneliness with acquiring things that she desires. She buys a car, house with a good garden, but fails to notice the big picture. Like Lester, Caroline transforms, into a more grounded and secure person.
Mendes shows this in the last episodes of the film when Caroline adorns a red velvet outfit. She becomes assertive and accepts to bond with Lester. Earlier it is apparent that Caroline is preoccupied with success and competes with Buddy Kane, the successful symbol in real estate.
Note that a red sign is mounted in his home to publicize himself, and it denotes his powers and sexual attraction to Caroline. Lighting is another technique used by Conrad Hall in the film to achieve various goals. It sis used to add to the effectiveness scenes. Elsewhere, as Angela appears alone in the frame, the background becomes absolutely black and a bright light shines on Angela. This light comes above Angela although its source is not clear.
In this scene, lighting is low key and high contrast. On the other hand, it is high contrast since the difference between darkness and light is obvious. The lighting effects in the film make various contributions. Moreover, light is used to show good as light s used in the moments of sadness and bad things. Furthermore, light compliments the attributes of Angela who is a virgin. Because the lighting source is unknown, it would be worthwhile to assume that the light is originating from Heaven to shine on Angela as a sign of her innocence.
Simultaneously, she is attempting to be someone else other who she is. Angela time and again claims that she is experienced in terms of sex. What is more, the darkness that appears in the background is a revelation of what is going to happen if Angela continues with her lies.
Note that, although she is a virgin, Lester is unaware and views her differently, and has bad thoughts on her. He is sexually obsessed with her and his thoughts, which are highlighted with darkness, surrounds Angela together with her innocence. As Lester is prepared to begin the sex act, Angela reveals that she is a virgin.
It is at this point that Lester realizes what he is doing and stops. This shot is a dynamic shot with a crane. It is as if, by some divine intervention, Lester came to realize the error of his ways before it was too late.
- An American Beauty rose, as known as Miss All- American Beauty is a fragrant hybrid tea rose, capable of lasting long as a cut flower. The rose is known as America’s national flower. Unfortunately it is prone to decaying and rusting (Jo).
American Beauty tells the story of one man's search for happiness. The film introduces the audience to Lester Burnham, an ordinary- looking married man and father in his forties. Lester is in a loveless marriage.
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