American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes, exploits the overwhelming misconception of beauty, and of how to achieve happiness. The tag line, “look closer”, prompts viewers to look deeper into the characters and thus into themselves; something that society should also be prompted to do. The characters in American Beauty are not what they appear, and throughout the course of the movie, reality hits and many realize the life they have been living is somewhat unsatisfactory. Through the use of narration and other techniques, Mendes illustrates how truly blind people can be, and how some luckily learn to see. Lester Burnham, the main character in the movie, is a middle aged man who has come to realize how unhappy he is with the life he is living. His wife is nothing but an inconvenience to him and his daughter has nothing but pure hatred for a man she claims does nothing but embarrass her. Lester’s first appearance in the movie is through narration; “In less than a year, I will be dead. Of course I don’t know that yet, but in a way, I am dead already”. Lester goes on to say, “Look at me, jerking off in the shower, this will be the high point of my day; it’s all downhill from here”. This makes it clear that Lester is aware of how pitiful his existence has come to be, but even so, he initially refuses to do anything about it. However, after encounters with his teenage neighbor, Ricky, Lester comes to the realization that only by taking matters into his own hands can he one day look back and feel nostalgic instead of complete regret. “I feel like I’ve been in a coma for 20 years, and I’m just now waking up” is what Lester told Ricky after realizing this. Lester continues to grow as the movie goes on, and comes to find that just simply realizing that his life isn’t close to what he ever wanted it to be, makes him happier than he has been in a long time. This is apparent at the end of the movie, when Lester narrates over the scene of his...
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