Film Studies Essay, Research Paper
Within the Introduction to film Studies classes we are able to explore the visions interpreted as we view a movie. One such movie in which I have analyzed is American Beauty, written by Alan Ball, and directed by Sam Mendes. American Beauty is a movie that leaves a lot left to explore. The content of this paper is not to find the meaning but rather take a journey with an unorthodoxed lead actors role throughout a wonderful movie.
Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), is a middle-aged man whose life is already destined. Through his eyes, we see the trivial motions in which he travels. His mundane lifestyle leads us to believe that there is little hope or yet realization that this man can overcome his pain. Occupying his home is his estranged wife Carolyn (Annette Bening), and his typical teenage daughter Jane (Thora Birch).
Lester is made out to be a helpless man. His methods are manipulated in a sense that allows us to feel almost certain empathy. He has little control in his household and is belittled by both Carolyn and Jane. Throughout the movie though, Lester experiences a sort of resurrection. With the help of a few key characters he is able to overcome a mid life crisis and turn into an admirable leading man.
The movies breaking point, or at least Lesters’, comes as he is introduced to his neighbor Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley). As Lester creates his own environment at a social gathering with his wife, Ricky introduces himself. Although just a caterer Ricky is the first to offer a realistic concern. He sees a distraught man and takes a simple moment to introduce himself. As the two create a conversation Ricky brings Lester back to a time when things were easier. Although chemically induced Lester takes note of Ricky’s flair and applauds his decisions to not necessarily care for the fact that he had just been fired from his job.
I feel as though this is where the movie begins to turn. Lester takes heed the idea that there is so much more that he has forgotten. He becomes a client of the apparent deranged neighbor and begins a circle that would bring him back to his more energetic days. Upon realizing the importance of himself as a central power Lester puts more emphasis on who he is. Although he is also swayed by Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari), Jane’s friend, Lester comes out from his shell and opens up into a new world.
After creating a few financial ventures Lester leaves his job with a years severance and full benefits. He quickly manages to start where he left off by getting back his original working experience. Rehired as a short hand cook at a fast food joint Lester brings himself back to his happiest point in life. When all that mattered was good times, women, and eight tracks no one really sees how much lighter he has become.
There are definitely more underlying notions that suggest more of a story but I feel that the main concern is the transformation of Lester. His unsatisfied sexual drive becomes retriggered with the help of Angela. It seems as though it is an innocent crush on his daughter’s friend but as the two build off of each other he becomes more engulfed and looks right passed his wife’s new pleasures. His views are realerted to a time when beauty was his concern and innocence was a virtue.
As the movie rolls on Ricky becomes closer with Jane. Between the two, there is a realization that is formed. Ricky’s videos explore a surreal world that Jane has always been a part of but has never known. The two help each other deliver comfort and for once, they can relax to the world’s glare.
Lester”s transformation begins to have an apparent effect to his wife Carolyn. She does not understand his views and yet never takes the time to effectively see where he is coming from. Just as you see the two come closer than they had, Carolyn ruins the moment with a comment on the possible destruction of a material object. Lester enjoys the moment for what it is and from here, we know that there is no further advancement between the couples relationship.
An awkward portrayal of realization in the movie is Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper). Armed with a manipulated Marine corp mind we see a person whose views have totally been branded. His own wife Barbara (Allison Janey) lies within hysterics and it is safe to say that he is at full fault. Seeing only what he has been drilled on the Colonel loses both his mind and life After interpreting his own thought on the circumstances between his son and his neighbor he falls to his inner desires and acts on his insanity. After discovering that he has unearthed tendencies he was unaware of and unaccepted towards, he does all that he has left. With a single gun shot, he takes out his worst nightmares and at the same time someone who he never quite got to know.
American Beauty, in comparison to other movies, does maintain a certain level of narrative structure. The common goal seems to be that Lester is in search of a finer life. Although in a demented way he finds the sweeter side, we see him reach what he sought for.
Throughout the movie, I searched myself towards the idea of realism and clarity. I feel that the realism is practical and in comparison to classical Hollywood. It allows you to believe that the events could take place or in the least within your mind, you can see the actuality. The clarity could be a struggle because for me, there is a deeper movie that is within. I can honestly say that I try to put myself into the eyes of the character. I want to feel the same way so I can understand how it was that the director, and writer, wanted the movie to be. Clarity is as important to any movie because it allows you to see. It lets you feel emotion and explore from there. By letting go for two hours, I could feel Lester. In a way, its importance is more rewarding than anything else because you can thoroughly enjoy or deploy vision.
This is where the difference is between classical Hollywood storytelling and today’s modern edge. Although I find it unfair to judge what was to what now is I see today’s movies as more unrestricted. We are allowed to be challenged in thought rather than dictation. I think that this allows writers, producers, and directors to explore more and because of this, we are rewarded with deeper entertainment.
It is apparent to me that the life chose by Lester is similar to the ones that we all go through. There contains realization that sometimes we overlook what it is that we originally held close. Everything we thought we wanted only becomes things we wanted after we have them. The search for happiness lies beneath and although we search, the simplest of things keep us free. Lester witnessed this throughout the film. He had everything which was nothing and traded it all for himself. There was life, beauty, simplicity and innocence. Lester’s thoughts demonstrate a perfect example. Upon finding what really is important to yourself, within your world ” I Rule”!
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