In the film ‘American Beauty’, we are confronted with the images that have consumed mainstream American life, and how the construction of these images hide our true selves. From the start, the construction of images is evident, as we get introduced to a classic American suburban and its citizens. Each of these have one or several flaws, that they have a hard time confronting. But through the film, each develop themselves and get in touch with different feelings.
The film present us to the Burnhams, who represent an American middle class suburban family. The family is pretty much what we would expect; the defeated father, the controlling mother and the jaded teenager. These people are types we can find everywhere. We know people like them, and we might even represent one of these types ourselves.
The main character and narrator, Lester Burnham, is an ordinary-looking married man and father in his forties. In the beginning he is the type that goes with the tide, which mainly is controlled by his wife, Carolyn. But then he starts changing. He gets in touch with his youthful years. The catalyst to this frame of thought is his daughter’s friend, Angela. Lester transforms into a spontaneous hormone-driven teenage boy, who smokes marihuana, quits his job, falls in love etc. In the end of the film, he finally feels satisfied about his life, as he tears himself away from the inferiority complex, he has suffered from in many years.
Lester’s wife, Carolyn, is a perfectionist, and is constantly focused on creating an image of success, which we easily discover in the beginnig of the film, when she says following to Lester: "My company sells an image. It's part of my job to live that image". Lester breaks this image when he refuses to comply with her standards, and tries to escape from her superficial world. Carolyn gives vent to her feelings by sleeping with her boss. A man which philosophy of life is to project an image of success at all times....
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