Existentialism: American Beauty
American Beauty is a movie that sets in suburban America. The story is about Lester, whom is a middle-aged writer working in a magazine company. He was having a midlife crisis where he felt lonely and numbed by continuous unchanging routine of his everyday life. In the movie, his wife portrayed as a successful real estate agent, but she was also going through her own midlife crisis in both her career and personal life. Lester’s daughter, Jane Bumham had alienated her parents and was going through puberty. They have a new neighbor who is a U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Frank Fitts, and he has a son, Ricky Fitts, who is a drug dealer. Lester was going to get fired from his company that he had worked for fourteen year. Lester managed to cut a deal by threatening the manager to give him a year’s worth of salary or else he would distribute the gossip news, which would sabotage the company. One day, he and his wife went to see their daughter’s cheerleading dance and during the performance Lester saw Jane’s friend Angela Hayes. He then starts having fantasies of her. On the other hand, his wife was also having an affair with a successful colleague. Disregarding his wife’s life, Lester started to make changes in his life after hearing Angela complimented him and suggested that if he worked out, she would like him even more. Therefore, he started working out after being fired from his job, and got a new job at a fast food restaurant. During work, he found that his wife was having an affair and he asked her for a divorce. On the other hand, the marine corporal, Frank, has trust issues with his son, since Ricky had a history of using drugs (smoking weed). One day, Frank starts to get suspicious about Ricky’s actions. Then when Lester called Ricky to get more marijuana, Frank saw them getting together in a room. He thought that they were sexually involved. In reality, they were just smoking weed. When Ricky went home, Frank abused him and mistakenly believed that he was homosexual, which caused him to kick Ricky out of the house. So Ricky decided to ask Jane to runaway with him to New York. At the same time, when Lester and Angela was getting intimate with each other, she suddenly confessed that she was a virgin. Lester realized that he shouldn’t be taking advantage of her and Angela started crying, so he comforted her. After the incident, both of them bonded and shared their problems. On the last scene of the movie, it showed Lester holding an old picture of his family reminiscing the past then Frank suddenly showed up with a gun and shot him.
The movie, American Beauty, portrayed many existential themes from philosophers like Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Paul Sartre. In the beginning of the movie, Lester indicates he lived like a dead man. He goes through the same routine everyday, which is similar to Franz Kafka’s character Gregor Samsa in the short story “Metamorphosis”. Before Gregor’s transformation into a metamorphosis, he was a salesman for a long period of time where he felt that had lost his character, goals and even estranged himself from his family. Lester and Gregor have committed themselves to the society, which caused them to be alienated by their families. In the beginning of the movie, Lester’s daughter critiqued her father as a “loser” and his wife also looked down on him. Gregor had similar situations, he was also alienated because his job required him to travel, and therefore, he couldn’t spend time with his family. According to Kafka, one has to go through alienation because that awakens us to blossom into a new life. He believes that an individual have to balance themselves between individuality and society. Even though Gregor’s transformation gave him a new life, it was too late for him to live for himself. On the other hand, Lester was lucky enough to experience the change when he heard Angela’s suggestion to get fit. This tip encouraged Lester to adjust his dull...
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