American Beauty Film Analysis

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  • Topic: Internet Movie Database
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There are few films that achieve the high level of quality exhibited by American Beauty. The film is a true masterpiece in both content and how this content is delivered to the viewers. It excels at being an enlightening and relevant drama about American life, and never fails to keep the audience entertained by providing many instances of well-placed humor. Every scene was filmed containing metaphoric elements that not only show great set aesthetics, but also create a mood and feeling for the theme of the movie. If one can’t somehow relate to anything in this film, then they have only looked at the surface. To “look closer” is a must for truly appreciating this film. Form

As with most dramas, American Beauty contains few special effects and not a whole lot more than the basic and necessary elements of video. An exception to this is during the metaphoric dream scenes where rose petals float everywhere. These scenes contain music using a wide variety of instruments, including a bird call. The music helps create the mood that these scenes are dream sequences, and go along with the theme that things are not what they seem. Many of the sets contain luxurious furniture and bright red American Beauty roses, symbolizing beauty and the American Dream.

Many scenes are metaphoric in how they are shot, and what is in the frame symbolizes a higher, deeper meaning. For example, in the beginning of the movie, Lester (the main character) is looking out the window of his house at his wife, and the blinds on the window represent jail cell bars. Even the blocks of text on his computer screen at work represent jail cell bars. Lester is “in jail” because his life at this point is so empty and missing substance.

The lighting is excellent, and never distracts from the action or dialog of each scene. It is used very well to create a mood in each scene. For example, a green and somber soft light is used in the scene where Ricky gets hit by his father and looks at his beaten up face in the mirror and wipes the blood from it. This makes the mood of the scene feel not dangerous and fearful, but melancholic and depressing. Ricky is obviously not afraid of his father, yet being hit by his father is not a happy situation for him.

The movie’s script is extraordinary, and is one of the main things that make this movie so great. While the meaning and portrayal of all of the dialog in the movie has rather deep and metaphoric meanings, individual lines of dialog are very simple and realistic. Many of these lines are quite hilarious, and they are all completely relevant to what is being communicated to the viewers. For example, when Carolyn sees her daughter after her cheerleading performance, she says “Honey, I'm so proud of you. I watched you very closely, and you didn't screw up once.” Carolyn says this in an extremely cheerful and happy tone, which shows how oblivious she is to how rude she is actually being by saying something like that, when she thinks it’s a nice compliment. There are numerous other examples that demonstrate how relevant, well-placed, and funny the humor in this movie is. Another scene takes place at dinner where there is a huge amount of hostility between Carolyn and Lester for quitting his job. Carolyn yells at Lester for losing his job. He replies with “Lose it? I didn't lose it. It's not like, ‘Oops, where'd my job go?’ I quit! Someone pass me the asparagus.” His wife keeps yelling at him so he ends up having to go to the other end of the table to get the asparagus. As he puts asparagus on his plate, his wife continues to nag him very loudly, so he throws the plate of asparagus on the wall, and it shatters. He then calmly tells his wife not to interrupt him.

The director definitely is very familiar with the script and can pick it apart with a fine toothed comb. This is apparent in the director’s commentary on the DVD. He talks about how there is a somewhat hidden meaning in each scene. The movie was also...
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