This film is about: A telesales operative becomes disillusioned with his existence and begins to hunger for fresh excitement in his life. As he experiences a new awakening of the senses, his wife and daughter also undergo changes that seriously affect their family.
My Review: American Beauty is a wonderful film that explores in great depth the nature of the residential, monotonous lifestyle, and offers a tale that subverts the traditional tropes of a suburban narrative, employing the perspective of various characters within the story such as his frustrated wife and his mopey, miserable daughter.
This film elucidates the power of lust, and the grip it manifests when synthesised with a tedious, lonely individual suffering from a failed marriage and a mid-life crisis. The director Sam Mendes masterfully tells this story, implementing various comedic elements in order to accentuate the sheer ridiculousness and unbelievability of such a situation; a father falling for his daughter’s best friend as a coping mechanism for his marital decline.
Additionally, Mendes’ use of over-the-top visuals in expressing Lester Burnham’s (Kevin Spacey) sexual desire further extends upon the absurd nature of the situation and plot, with images of his teenage crush, Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari), draped on the floor coated in red roses, which is a pervading motif throughout the movie acting as a symbol for his undying lust.
The roses also represent perfection in the eyes of the protagonist; the unattainable, the illusion of beauty, yet it is slowly revealed throughout the film that his lustful cravings are irrational, and true beauty comes from simplicity and stability, for example the plastic bag which Jane Burnham (Thora Birch) and Rick Fitts (Wes Bentley) seem to admire so much for its unostentatious and ordinary qualities.
The film is littered with subtle symbolism that highlight the despair and hopelessness faced by the protagonist, and Sam Mendes’ expert directorial skills mixed with Conrad Hall’s highly professional cinematography, the story of an American tragedy is told with amazing precision. The film received multiple accolades including Best Picture at the Academy Awards, which further lends it credibility in the eyes of movie-goers.
This film is magnificent and portrays an otherwise boring setting in a way that makes it exceedingly interesting and eye-catching. I recommend this film to anyone with a keen taste for sophisticated symbolism amalgamated with a bland, but multifaceted setting.
-Joshua Lamont (TGS Senior Student)