American Beauty: an Analysis of Lester Burnham and Ricky Fitts

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Film: History and Form
November 17, 2010
American Beauty: An Analysis of Lester Burnham and Ricky Fitts  
American Beauty, written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes, invites the viewer to do one thing: look closer. Look closer at life, look closer at your surroundings, look closer at your possessions, and finally look closer at your loved ones. What is integral about the subject matter of the film is how applicable it is to almost anyone who watches it. The film’s grotesque depiction of American middle-class society is immediately very attractive, and the different elements such as the main character’s mid-life crisis, the young girls’ coming-of-age experiences and general family dynamics are very relatable to almost any viewer. As the viewer, we are drawn into the families and are forced to “look closer” and investigate what is wrong and why they have become the way that they are. Throughout the film’s progression, Lester Burnham and Ricky Fitts are portrayed as mirror-images of one another and that they indeed are quite similar in their struggles against their respective overbearing authorities, share similar feelings of imprisonment and desires for escape.  Carolyn, Lester and Jane Fitts seem like the perfect nuclear family. With both parents working successful jobs in the real estate and advertising business, the Burnham household appears to be the ideal American, nuclear family. Their house is filled with ideal family photos and decorated with expensive furniture, while their front yard is perfectly gardened and lined with a white picket fence and an abundance of red roses. From the outside, it seems like a story of a perfect and happy family. What comes with the label of being a nuclear family are both financial and emotional security and an assumption of traditional gender roles. It is clear, however, that the character of Lester Burnham has grown alienated from within his own home and wants to escape. He is living a sedated life and has become...
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