American Beauty Essay 27

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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. 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...
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