American Beauty

American Beauty Its Just a Couch!!!!!! Americans are caught up in the belief that what we are is what we own. There is a superficial nature to our society. We are nothing more than peacocks walking around strutting our feathers marked with price tags and brand names. The suburbs are a nesting ground for all of this fictitiousness. When Lester Byrnham introduces himself to his audience, he finds himself amidst the cradle of this fakeness. The movie American Beauty starts by accompanying Lester Byrnham through one day of his boring and mundane life.

Lester is trapped amongst fake and superficial people. He sees the trouble with his family, and yet he avoids it because he does not believe in disturbing the perfect image his family represents. The Byrnhams are a living faade. On the outside, the Byrnhams fit the mold of the typical middle class family: A nice house, with roses in front and a Mercedes SUV, but on the inside they are far from it. The Byrnhams attempt to portray the image of the successful family. They want be the Cleavers of the new millennium; however, they fail miserably.

Lester Byrnham is surrounded by artificiality, which ironically produces the impulse for his breakthrough changes in life. Despite the darkness of the film, American Beautys message is ultimately hopeful because Lester Byrnham learns from his younger counterpart next door that true beauty comes from within. In the movie, it is the King of real estate who makes the clichd but sadly truthful statement that To be successful one must portray an image of success at all times. How true that statement is. If success is portrayed from the inside out, rather than the outside in, then the statement holds truth.

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However, in the case of the neighborhood that American Beauty takes place in, people wear success like a badge or a medal. Lester is trapped in a world of people that want to prove to everyone else that they are successful. To discover the ideology of the external portrayal of successfulness, one need not look further than within the walls of the Byrnham household. Carolyn is the best example of peripheral fakeness; she is the worst offender of this superficial nature. Her real estate job is more important then her family, her marriage, and even her life, because her business is her life. She takes on the identity of the houses that she tries to sell. In the movie, the one house that the audience sees is nice on the outside but very ugly on the inside.

When people come to look at the house, they see the ugliness on the inside and are turned away from Carolyn and from buying the house. The irony is that the house needs the most work on the inside much like Carolyn. Perhaps it is the Sam Mendess (the directors) way of metaphorically portraying the fact that Carolyn needs to work on her internal rather than the external. In the advertisement for the house, Carolyn lies about the pool out back saying it is lagoon- like. She can lie about the external part of the house, but it is the internal that people truly find ugly about both Carolyn and her real estate.

When people turn down her real estate, she takes it to heart because her job is who she is. If someone does not like her product, then they do not like Carolyn. People do not like Carolyn because she is nothing more than a faade. There is nothing behind a faade. It is something that tricks people into believing that the beauty on the outside is equal to the beauty on the inside. Ricky Fitts, the Byrnhams next-door neighbor, puts it best when he exclaims, Never underestimate the power of denial. It is denial that drives the Byrnhams and it is denial that drives Colonel Frank Fitts of the U.S.

Marine Core. Frank Fitts is another character who builds up a faade on the outside. The Fittses are the exact opposite of the Byrnhams in appearance. They are the 1950s nuclear family, as opposed to the Byrnhams who are the nuclear family of the millennium. Mrs.

Fitts does not work. She cleans the house and tends to the family. Colonel Frank Fitts is a retired war hero. He dictates his house like a commander runs a battalion. Mrs. Fitts acts so subordinate towards her husband that she seems almost autistic.

She seems as if she is another world; like she is looking to the past and living in another time. On the outside, Colonel Fitts acts hardnosed and cold. He puts up the faade of a mans man. He wants to seem like a Gen. Patton or a Gen.

Montgomery. When in actuality, he truly is a mans man, just not in that hero sort of way. Colonel Frank Fitts is a homosexual. He hides his sexual preference in what seems like a perfect 1950s nuclear family. His contempt for homosexuals only makes his denial more pertinent. When the gay neighbors come to the door, there is something odd about the look on Colonel Fittss face. He almost does not believe that the two men standing at his door are homosexuals.

Colonel Fitts cannot understand that Jim and Jim are partners, because he denies the fact that they are partners. There is one instance when Colonel Fitts is about to say something to his son, but he cuts himself off. He does not allow himself to finish his thought. One can only imagine if he is trying to tell his son something, but his denial of speech does not allow anyone to know what he was going to say. Frank Fittss denial is the root of all his deep seeded anger and aggression.

Ricky Fitts bares the grunt of this aggression. Colonel Fitts will not accept the fact that his son has a drug problem. Therefore, he sends him to military school, and when military school fails to discipline his son, Colonel Fitts sends Ricky to a mental institution. Colonel Fitts uses the power of denial against his own son. He did not want to accept the fact that his son had pr …

American Beauty

American Beauty 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. Lester’s wife, Carolyn, is so wrapped-up in her real estate career that Lester often claims that Carolyn doesn’t even acknowledge him. Furthermore, Lester’s daughter, Jane, is completely distant, often claiming how pathetic she thinks her father is. 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 and vulnerability for him. Lester is therefore in search of an escape and a rebirth. He is seeking the slightest possibility of happiness. Throughout the story Lester is consistently reminiscing on his past; wishing he could have it back. In the beginning portions of the story, Lester, as the narrator, states that it is never too late to regain your past.

The catalyst to this frame of thought is Jane’s friend, Angela. Lester feels excited by the thought that a teen-age girl thinks he is hot. Lester overhears Angela state that she would have sex with him if Lester would start working-out and build-up his body. This drives Lester to change himself completely. Lester, in desperate search of happiness , finds an escape in Angela. Much like a hormone-driven teenage boy, Lester thinks that if he can score with a bombshell like Angela, then he will be reborn.

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Lester’s mission for happiness and escape is further perpetuated by his eighteen year old neighbor, Ricky. In Ricky, Lester sees his model for rebirth. Lester calls Ricky his hero and is in awe of Ricky’s confidence. Lester, then begins a transformation back to his stereotypical understanding of what a teenager is. Lester begins to work-out, smoke pot, and drink beer.

Much like a teen, he rebels against responsibility by quitting his job and; therefore, bypassing his duties as a provider to his daughter and wife. Furthermore, Lester spontaneously, trades in his Mercedes automobile for a 1970’s cherry-red Trans Am sports car. In addition, Lester pursues a job with the least amount of responsibility. He finds that job in a fast food restaurant. All of these actions are deemed necessary to Lester because this is the way to escape and thus achieving happiness. The first scene where the audience is introduced to Lester’s transformation process is when he first spots Angela.

Lester and Carolyn decided to come and support Jane at a school basketball game where she is to perform a dance at half-time. This scene is significant because it shows how Angela’s sexuality motivated Lester to rebel against who he is. Furthermore, this scene exemplifies Lester’s characteristics as a hormone-crazed male in search of sex. This frame of thought is associated more with teens than with men in their forties. The first two technical elements used to exemplify this scene are composition and camera movement.

The scene begins with Lester and Carolyn already in the stands with the crowd. Angela, Jane, and the other cheerleaders enter the picture with right to left movement assisted by a panning camera shot of right to left. This foreshadows the unordinary actions that are about to occur. Almost immediately, into the dance routine, Angela is given an upward position in the frame elevated with dynamic composition. It is dynamic composition because there is movement (Angela dancing) within a fixed frame.

By giving Angela an upward position within the frame this suggest Lester is first noticing her. As the scene continues, and Angela has Lester’s full attention, Angela is shown moving towards the camera in another dynamic composition shot complemented by the camera zooming in on her. This gives the audience an idea as to the degree of attention that Lester is giving to Angela due to her sexuality. It also enhances her presence. The scene continues with a static composition shot of Lester.

It is static composition because there is no movement within the frame. The camera then begins to zoom in on Lester. As the camera zooms, the crowd is eliminated and only Lester is shown in the frame. Furthermore, the camera focuses on Lester’s eyes and makes them appear bigger than they actually are. This makes Lester look like an animal drooling at the mouth over something he desires.

At this point, the camera performs a point of view shot showing what Lester’s eyes are fixated on, and focuses on Angela. This, once again, displays the degree of enchantment that Angela has placed over Lester. Angela is also shown alone in the frame. This shows that in Lester’s mind, only Angela and himself exist at this moment. Not even his daughter is of any relevance.

The scene concludes with the camera then performing a shot-reverse-shot of Angela then Lester. This allows the audience to see that in Lester’s fantasy, Angela is dancing erotically just for him and is paying as much attention to him as he is paying to her. It is important to note that Angela and Lester are never shown in the same frame in this scene. This suggest that there is some barrier that is between them such as the fact that Lester is desiring a girl that is his daughter’s age. Lighting is another technical element that adds to the effectiveness of this scene.

When the camera performs a point of view shot from Lester’s perspective to show the audience that he is fixated on Angela; Angela is shown by herself in the frame. As stated above, this is to show that Angela is the only object of Lester’s attention. Lighting adds to this effect. Lighting is used to focus the audience on Lester’s eyes and to show that he is being enchanted by what he sees. As Angela is shown alone in the frame, the background in the shot becomes completely black. There is a bright light shining on Angela.

The source of the light is not clear, and is coming from above Angela. The lighting in the scene is high contrast and low key. It is high contrast because the difference between light and darkness is clear. It is low key lighting because Angela’s shadow can be seen behind her and shadows can be seen on the rest of Lester’s face, excluding his eyes. The contributions that the lighting effect has in this scene are many.

First of all, the light shining solely on Angela adds to the audience understanding that Angela is the object of Lester’s attention. Secondly, light is usually affiliated with good and darkness with bad. The light compliments Angela’s characteristics because she is a virgin. Since the source of the light cannot be seen, there can be speculation that the light is one from Heaven, shining down on her to show her innocence. At the same time, Angela is trying to be somebody that she is not.

She consistently claims throughout the movie that she is sexually experienced. The darkness in the background of the shot can be the foreshadowing of things to come if she continues on this path of lies. Even though she may be a virgin, unknowingly to Lester; Lester views her and is thinking bad thoughts. He is fixated with her sexuality, as shown through the dance routine his fantasy has Angela perform. Lester’s thoughts which represent darkness, are shown as surrounding Angela and her innocence.

Editing complements this scene by adding more definition to the relationship-to-be between Angela and Lester. The entire scene uses decoupage. It is decoupage because the cutting is fast paced which suggests an almost chaotic and imbalance perspective to the audience and at the same time it shows that the thoughts that are going through Lester’s head are not ordinary, instead they are chaotic. Also, decoupage has a tendency to use close-ups. This scene has plenty of zoom shots of Angela and Lester.

Furthermore, it is important to note that Angela and Lester are never shot together in the scene. They are individually shot in a shot-reverse-shot fashion. This suggest a disunity between the both of them. Again, something is separating the both of them, such as the age gap. Not including the absence of decoupage and ellipsis is important in this scene. Absence of decoupage requires a decelerated pace.

A slower pace would take away from the chaotic sensation that decoupage brings and; therefore, would not reflect well on the relationship-to-be between Angela and Lester. Using ellipsis would require fast-paced cutting that would compare and contrast the actions occurring in this scene with another scene. This would disturb the scene and take away its effectiveness. By showing the degree of passion between Angela and Lester in his fantasy; the audience learns much about Lester’s intentions and transformation. The usage of sound adds to the effectiveness of both …


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