American Beauty American Beauty .. Look Closer My first reaction after seeing Sam Mendes’ feature film directorial debut, American Beauty, is that it disturbed me. I walked out of the theater in a virtually bewildered state of mind. This is the kind of movie that makes you wonder about what really is beautiful, and where can you find this beauty. Is it something that is in the happenings of an ordinary day or in the special people that we choose to share our lives with? American Beauty opens with Lester Burnham’s (Kevin Spacey) declaration that, “I’m 42 years old.
In less than a year I’ll be dead. Of course I don’t know that yet. In a way I’m dead already.” In this simple manner the film establishes its somber tone, its dry sense of humor, its non-linear narration, and its character’s fate. Having revealed the fatal outcome, what follows is a brief view of the final days of Lester’s frustrated life; of his wife Carolyn’s (Annette Bening) constant belittling of him and all things associated with him; and of their daughter Jane’s (Thora Birch) overpowering contempt towards both of them. (Review, www.cinephiles.net).
“American Beauty accurately and purposefully describes the meaninglessness and loneliness of the current moment in much of America. It’s a story that finds its source on the pages of daily newspapers, with a group of characters we all know well from our neighborhood store, from our personal histories, or at least from television. It gives us a family we would pretty much expect: the Defeated Father; the Isolated Mother; the Jaded Teen. It gives us the Neat Gay Couple; the Homophobic Narrow Conservative, and the Oversexed Teen. These people are types, but they are not mere jokes.
These people exist in America, and they exist in full. These people are our neighbors, and if we “look closer” as the movie asks us to do, we’ll see that we know people just like this, and that perhaps we are one or more of these people” (Dodd, www.believe-me.com). Film and Cinema.