American Beauty: Analysis of Lester Burnham

Topics: Aggression, Relational aggression, Psychology Pages: 5 (1643 words) Published: April 24, 2012
Introduction to the Analysis of Lester Burnham

When I was told to choose a movie to perform a psychoanalysis on a character. I did not know what movie to choose. After watching the two hour long film on the multiple characters that seemed to be struggling to find their inner happiness: American Beauty. I knew that I should not look any further. One character that especially stood out was, Lester Burnham. A forty-two year old father with a mid-life crisis. In the film, American Beauty Lester Burnham is portrayed as an ordinary man, with a perfect life, but of course that is far from the truth. From the outside, Lester seems to have a perfect salary, and a perfect family who lives in a perfect neighborhood. In reality, things are not what they seem to be. In fact, he is on the verge of getting fired from this job, his wife and only child hate him, and he also hates himself. Slowly a series of crises begin to occur that ensure that eventually the family will be destroyed. It starts off with the deterioration of his relationship with, his daughter Jane, and wife Carolyn. “She wasn't always like this. She used to be happy. We used to be happy.”(Cohen, & Mendes, 1999)

Everyday is different in his life, but also the same. He goes to work and comes home only to have dinner with the same music and same people who despise him the most. Not to mention how every dinner ends the same, with personal attacks towards him, only to make him feel worse about himself. The worst part is that he knows he is going to do the same tomorrow. As things seem to escalate more and more it is becoming more obvious that he has reached his mid-life crisis. Especially when he meets Angela, his daughters attractive best friend, he thinks he has finally found a new purpose for living. This is when Burnham has reached a critical point in his life.

This film revolves around many ideas and themes. One of these is the value of life. “I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn't always feel this... sedated. But you know what? It's never too late to get it back.”(Cohen, & Mendes, 1999)

From now on, in the movie, Lester decides to turn his life around. Starting by getting himself out of the depression he is currently in. As the movie goes on, one of the first things you notice while watching the movie is how perfect the houses are aligned and how his whole entire house is furnished with the color gray or light shades of blue. The only things that do seem to have color are either painted with red or blue. In turn the red signifies the things that make the characters happy and the blue signifies the troubles the characters are facing.

How does that person interact with others in the movie?
Lester’s interaction with others in the movie was the one significant thing that showed his true colors of his character. He seemed to have a positive outlook on gaining relationships, but most characters in the film wanted nothing to do with him. They saw him as an impersonal individual with no care in the world, but to fulfill his own desires. On the other hand, all he wanted was to have a happy relationship with his daughter and wife. However, in return they never showed him an ounce of gratitude. Especially his daughter Jane. From the first time I saw them have dinner with the vase of red flowers and perfect family portrait between them, I knew that Jane had repressed anger towards her father. Particularly when Lester tried to conversate with Jane and she clearly expressed that she could care less. “Well, what do you expect? You can't all of a sudden be my best friend, just because you had a bad day…I mean, hello. You've barely even spoken to me for months.”(Cohen, & Mendes,1999)

At this point in the movie it has become pretty obvious that the main character is not only depressed but he also has a passive aggressive personality disorder. The first psychological behavior shown was depression. Depression is an Axis I...

References: Cohen, B. (Producer) & Mendes, S. (Director). (1999). American beauty [Motion picture]. United States : DreamWorks.
Sharp, LK, & Lipsky, MS. (2002). Screening for depression across the lifespan: a review of measures for use in primary care settings. Retrieved from
Vorvick, L, & Rogge, T. (2008, October 17). Passive aggressive personality disorder. Retrieved from
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