American Beauty Film Review Essay

“American Beauty” is a DreamWorks production that was shot in 1999 and released in the United States in 2000. It was the big-screen debut for director Sam Mendes, as well as for writer Alan Ball. The film was produced by Alan Ball, Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks, and Stan Wlodkowski. It won five Oscars: Best Actor (for Kevin Spacey), Best Cinematography (for Conrad L. Hall), Best Director (for Sam Mendes), Best Picture (for Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks), and Best Screenplay (for Alan Ball).

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The film tells a drama story about Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis. The main characters apart from Lester are: his wife Carolyn Burnham played by Annette Bening and their daughter Jane (Thora Birch). Beginning with the opening scene the audience is made to look closer to the American middle class suburban life. Lester and Carolyn Burnham are on the outside, a perfect husband and wife, in a perfect house, in a perfect neighbourhood.

It is all an illusion.

The audience is allowed to view deep inside . Main characters are an unhappily married couple, going through their own middle age crises. Carolyn is a real estate agent, too much wrapped-up in her career and directing her attraction to the realtor Buddy Kane (Peter Gallagher). Lester’s wife is extremely materialistic and frustrated with her husband. Jane is a rebelling daughter, who hates her father. Moreover, Lester has dedicated fourteen years to his occupation, and suddenly, he is in danger of losing his job due to downsizing.

All of these factors dramatically effect Lester and culminate into feelings of desperation. Lester is therefore seeking the slightest possibility of happiness. After attending a cheerleader competition at Jane’s high school, he meets Jane’s friend Angela, whom he develops an infatuation for and decides he is going to turn his life around. But Angela flirts with a Lester only to aggravate Jane who is the competition for Angela. Lester quits his high paying job to work at a fast food restaurant and decides to re-live his 20s.

He even starts smoking a marijuana. The impact his behaviour has on the others around him changes and not for the better. The main conflict that seems to undercurrent the whole movie is the tensions between Lester and his wife Caroline who cannot seem to find anything good about her husband and or his work or his life in general. They are no longer having sexual relations and this tension is wearing on Lester. American Beauty is a movie of symbols and hidden messages.

Although the story is complex, the basic theme is obvious. The ending leaves the viewers with a feeling of relief and enlightenment, and a sense of appreciation for their own lives. I recommend watching this film. American Beauty transforms the ugly and banal into the most beautiful thing you may ever see in your life. Don’t miss this fantastic film and the opportunity to see life in a new way. American Beauty is certainly something to make you reconsider your own values and prospects for a beautiful life.

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