The movie American Beauty bears the name of the most popular in the USA brand of roses. The roses are present in the picture everywhere. They are like a scarlet ribbon running through the canvas of the narration, each time concentrating audience’s attention upon themselves as upon the stereotype of American beauty. This is not a story about empty cellophane bag flying in the wind. This is not a saga about a masturbating wimp American man. And even not about that that life is a shit and women are you know who. This is rather the story of stereotypization of mass conscience that reached global proportion.
This is a story about that that our life as any reality is a mosaic with different patterns – sometimes even ugly and detestable. Some of us see the life lines interlacing as a stifling web and others see it as roads running away beyond the skyline. Overall, American Beauty is a film about the life of an average American family, and problems experienced by each member of this family. And in this case it does not matter is the family American, English, French or any other as it was already mentioned the stereotypical conscience became global.
Movie plot is simple enough and, to certain extent, hackneyed. To tell the truth the beginning of the picture evokes feelings of boredom as you expect a typical tearful story of jerk husband, stinker wife, their daughter suffering from loneliness and lack of understanding and their neighbors – a bit screwed guy, trading drugs and practicing voyeurisme with his video camera, his father, colonel retired, who hates homosexuals being himself a latent homosexual. However, the way all this story is presented makes this movie different and distinguished.
American Beauty is impressive for the fact that there are no right or guilty characters in the story. For example, Lester (Kevin Spacey) is not a dull, horny jerk, he is rather an average man who could not achieve in this life anything or even establish a normal family, where al least someone would understand and support him. His wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) is not a stinker or a whore; she is a simply unhappy woman, which tries hard to bluster way out of difficult life “I will sell this house today, I will sell this house today…” (Carolyn), but fails.
And their daughter Jane (Thora Birch) is not a wicked child dreaming of killing her parents but rather a poor little girl, who feels awfully lonely and seeks for someone to understand her. The central event of the film is the moment when Lester is trying to free himself from the chains of commonness and dullness of the life surrounding him. He quits his well-paid position and starts working in McDonald’s and going in for sport. But the outward manifestation is not the point; the point is that Lester got free inward.
He ceased being afraid of his wife, he has got that job which does not give you satisfaction and where you have to lick the boots of your boss is worthless. These changes made Lester feel free and happy! “I feel like I’ve been in a coma for about twenty years. And I’m just now waking up. ” (Lester) But this is the moment when an inevitable end had to come. Lester is killed. Any person from his surrounding could have done it. Daughter Jane, who could not stand his lusty stare at her classmate: “I need a father who’s a role model, not some horny geek-boy who’s gonna spray his shorts every time I bring a girlfriend home from school.
”(Jane); wife Carolyn, who hates him as she regards him as a sluggard and loser; Jane’s friend, Ricky (Wes Bentley), whom Jane asked to kill her father; Ricky’s father, crazy about patriotism and fascism colonel, who believes his son to have an affair with Lester; and even Lester who feels good and likes his new life. Why not to die at such a moment? To leave this world with pleasant emotions… 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 … (Lester) The movie is masterfully shot in all respects. Young film director Sam Mendes has demonstrated fairly good sense of humor and style. Take for example red rose-petals emerging as soon as Lester gets absorbed in his erotic fantasies. Red petals serve as unambiguous, though delicate euphemism of orgasmic feelings of the main character. This cross-cutting image looks very nice though till the end of film it becomes exuberant and starts irritating.
And finally the empty bag fluttering in the wind is like a key symbol of the film. It is noticed by Ricky through his camera lens, who looks at the world only in this way, through his camera, as it makes reality to be accepted easier. “Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember… and I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in” (Ricky) Ricky, as a real artist, sees beauty in the things which are seen by others as ugly.
This is, as a matter of fact, the notion of “American beauty”, the world, which you see beyond U. S. model through this or that stimulating means. American beauty is a McDonald’s, but not as a place where you come to gorge fast, sooner as a place of inner freedom. This is a bright scarlet car, of which you dreamt all your life but had not bought because there were more “useful” things you had to buy. In the long run, American beauty is your inner freedom, freedom in mind and not under the canopy of Star & Stripes flag. Bibliography American Beauty. Dir. Sam Mendes. 1999. DVD, 2002.
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