Final Film Critique: American Beauty 1Final Film Critique: American Beauty Justin Bishop Prof Melanie Rodriguez Introduction to Film 8/6/2012
Final Film Critique: American Beauty 2 Final Film Critique: American BeautyIntroductionThe American films of the recent decades are remarkable for a host of movies which presentvaried themes and diverse thought patterns of people who live in the modern times. All suchattempts on the celluloid have got much critical acclamation for these reasons. The 1999American film, American Beauty is one such creation which has become a topic on all scholarlydiscussions on films. There are many reasons behind the phenomenal success of the film. Firstand foremost of all, it gives an insight into the thoughts of a man who is surrounded by manyemotions. He undergoes varied situations, and ultimately, he feels that it is hard for him to lead abetter life. The story ends with the protagonist shot dead. The events which led to his death areexcellently depicted in the film. The thematic and stylistic aspects of the film make it a rareaesthetic experience.American Beauty is far away from being the story of Lester Burnham and those around him.Instead, each and every character represents the Americans of the contemporary world. Lester isa typical representative of the American middle class society who goes through wide-rangingexperiences in life. Right from the beginning of the movie, it is shown that he is a person whokeeps many mistaken notions about life. He is not successful in profession, and hence leaves it.He fails to lead a better family life as well. His wife is an ambitious real estate dealer who ismore wedded to her profession than to Lester. To top it all, she develops an affair with BuddyKane which disturbs him. Jane, the couple’s daughter, is facing some problems with regard to
Final Film Critique: American Beauty 3self esteem (Johnston, p.101). All these make Lester feel depressed. He finds that life is veryhard to put up with. His infatuation for Jane’s friend is an outcome of his depressed mind. Theemotionally chaotic mind of Lester wants an outlet, and that can be the reason for his fascinationfor the adolescent girl.No cinematic creations become appealing without incorporating various techniquesharmoniously. American Beauty is a movie which is praised for its brilliant integration of variouselements. Right from the beginning, it is revealed that Lester Burnham suffers from emotionalimbalance. He is a complicated character who exhibits diverse moods and emotions. For thesame reason, it is not an easy task to depict the character of Lester effectively. However, themovie has become successful in handling almost all its aspects. In addition to being a touchingstory of a middle aged man, it can be regarded as an example of filmmaking with technicalperfection.Script is the backbone of all filmic works. American Beauty has a story which moves the mind ofall the viewers. Alan Ball has skillfully carried out storytelling which makes people know themultifaceted features of the film. The story is simple and no trace of sophistication is felt at anypoint of time. However, the writer could make the readers anxious to know what will happen tothe characters in the next moment. The film achieved this greatness due to its brilliant storytelling techniques. The plot is linear in structure and is never interrupted by some other detailswhich do not develop Lester’s story. Towards the end, there is a flashback scene which shedslight into the life of the protagonist. Instances such as these clearly show that the author is reallyskilled enough to highlight minute details to talk about the characteristic traits of certainindividuals. Alan Ball is able to see everything analytically and Boyd Petrie’s review indicates
Final Film Critique: American Beauty 4this. “Balls screenplay is remarkably intelligent, displaying hilarious comedy as well asinsightful and dead-on portrayals of Americas suburban culture. Amazingly, Ball keepseverything accessible, never striving for absurdist situations like in David Lynchs similar BlueVelvet. The plot is rather straightforward, but does keep secrets only to reveal them at opportunemoments” (Petrie, 2012). This statement shows that Alan is a great author who could understandthe pulse of an average American.On watching the movie American Beauty, people can rightly comment that the casting has beendone logically. All the actors could show complete justice to the script. The characters aredesigned in such a way that they highlight the aspects of middle class life. Also, there are highlyemotional occasions in the life of almost all characters. Hence, ordinary mode of acting cannotbring about the desired effect. It is in this context that various actors and actresses deservespecial mention (Potter, p.185). Specific examples can be traced from the movie to illustrate thatacting is done excellently well. The scene in which Lester falls infatuated with Angela Hayes hasa classic touch in it. Also, the final moments of Lester in which he develops a fatherly feelingfor Angela need special mention. The acting of other characters such as Carolyn, Jane, Barbara,Ricky and Frank Fitts enhance the overall appeal of the movie. In this way, it can be said withoutany doubt that the actors and actresses have played a crucial role in the success of the movie.Cinematography is an area which has to be paid utmost importance in the creation of any movie.American Beauty carries out this department in an effective way with many techniques. ConradHall, the cinematographer, has exhibited all his talents to make the movie an integrated whole.Even a single scene communicates much details of the story. He is well aware of that it is not astory which depicts some peripheral aspects of a family. Instead, it delves deep into the innerfeelings of a set of people. As a result, there should be certain innovative techniques in
Final Film Critique: American Beauty 5cinematography as well. In order to heighten the visual appeal, he deliberately includes manysymbols and motifs. Lester is a self proclaimed loser whose life proves that he has been right inassessing himself. Throughout life, he has suffered a lot. However, it is his feelings for Angelawhich resulted in his ultimate doom. His feelings for her were so strong that he could not controlhis emotions. So as to convey this idea to the viewers, certain motifs have been included in theplot. Red rose petals are a motif which talks about his romantic and sexual feelings for theadolescent girl. Here, the aesthetic mind of the cinematographer is evidently visible. Quitenaturally, Conrad Hall won the Academy Award for best cinematographer.Film is a visual art which attracts people mainly for its visual treat. American Beauty proves thatit is a movie shot with adequate scenes in a skillful manner. In this context, it is to be clarifiedthat editing is done in the film keeping the mood of the actions (Ball, p.61). Various events of theplot make the viewers interested, and they are anxious to see the further actions. There are manyscenes which take place in different places. However, the readers feel a sense of continuity. Theynever get distracted with any of the actions of the movie, and this is the achievement of editing.The perfection of editing is revealed throughout the movie. Tariq Anwar and ChristopherGreenbury are the editors and they have done a great deal of things to make the endeavor asuccessful one. The extraordinary success of the movie would not have been possible without thehard work done by the editing department.Behind the success of every movie, there is the hard work of the director. He has to be skillful inmany aspects of filmmaking. American Beauty is, in fact, the product of the vision of SamMendes, its director. Each and every shot of the movie indicates that he is a skilled filmmakerwho knows the pulse of the viewers. The brilliant incorporation of various cinematic elements
Final Film Critique: American Beauty 6falls in the credit of the director. He keeps an artistic mind and this is seen in the way the filmhas been taken. Sam Mendes has won the academy award for best director, and this establisheshim as a first rate director who could make films with difference. The prime achievement of thedirector lies in the fact that he could make it appealing to people of all across the world. It is thelife of a few American middle class members which is depicted in the movie. However, it canhappen to anyone living in any parts of the world. The emotions presented are universal, and hehas taken special care to sustain it throughout.The sound department has contributed much to make the film an artistic success. There are manyemotional scenes in the movie and each such scene is backed up with adequate sound patterns.They never divert the attention of the viewers. Instead, the background sound makes theminvolve in the actions of the story. The scenes in which Lester feels love for Angela are givensound effects which move the mind of the viewers. The creative involvement of the soundengineers is visible in regulating the tone and mood of dialogues by different characters. Inaddition to that, the music of Thomas Newman is an advantage to the movie.American Beauty is a drama film which instills varied emotions in the mind of the viewers.There is love, hatred, suspicion, passion and indifference. The themes presented in the moviemake it a work of artistic value. Lester is passionately in love with Angela and this makes aseries of psychological trauma in his mind. He involves in sexual fantasies about the teenagerand is seem to be mad for her. His obsession with the girl primarily stems from his unsuccessfulpersonal and professional life. He is emotionally unfit, and wants to divert it through somemeans (Chachere, p.43). Also, his wife is indifferent to him. She is never bothered about him,and even involves in a relationship with a man. All these makes Lester seek the love of Angela.
Final Film Critique: American Beauty 7However, eventually he finds that he is a father figure to her. This transformation takes place inhis mind due to his harsh realities and final realization of the truth. The love affair between Janeand Ricky also is presented in the movie with proper importance. Both of them have similaritiesin the sense that they feel a sense of dejection in mind. Jane has certain issues with regard to selfesteem which prevents her from all kinds of relationships. Ricky is fed up with his father whocontrols him in each and every matter. Such a situation make the two come to close with eachother. Here, the movie communicates the value of unprejudiced love.Even though the movie analyses the psychological aspects of the characters, many other issuesare given equal importance. Family is the core of man’s social life. However, the two mainfamilies presented in the movie are disintegrated in many ways. Lester’s family is spoiledbecause of the lack of mutual love and understanding. He is a victim of depression and is unableto remain steady in any endeavor. His wife is indifferent and she never cares for her family. It istheir daughter who suffers for all these as she fails to boost up her self esteem. The disintegrationof the family reaches its zenith when Lester is shot dead. Similarly, Frank Fitts’ family also hasmany issues. He is homophobic and always doubts his son. This leads him to murder Lester. Hisson, Ricky, has never got any happy moments at home due to the harshness of his father. Hismother is introverted and this made the family atmosphere more troublesome. He finds that hisrelationship with Jane is soothing; however, this also proves to be inconsistent. In this way,family matters are depicted realistically highlighting all fundamental internal issues.Artistic creations reflect social realities. The movie can be identified as a typical art work whichinspects the existing social order. It is the concept of the ‘American Dream’ which is dominant inall analysis of the movie. Lester Burnham has many misconceptions regarding life. Living in a
Final Film Critique: American Beauty 8capitalist world, he fails to understand the real essence of life. He is materialistic and this isevident in many scenes of the movie. He wants to own his dream car, and is ready to do anythingto get money. He even blackmails his employer and bags an amount of $60,000. Also, hispassionate love for Angela is an indication of his materialistic mind. Alan Ball, the author, iswell convinced that America has many issues to be resolved. Most of the members of middleclass society exhibit emotional disturbances. Economic disparity is the chief reason for it. Theyare attracted by the outward glory of things and runs after material things. It is only after a longtime that they realize that they have been wasting their valuable time. It is emptiness which theyultimately embrace. Lester is such a figure. In this sense, he exactly represents the Americanmiddle class man. The movie derives its materials from the society and hence, Lester shows thecharacteristics of many Americans. The movie could influence the thoughts of the Americans asit speaks certain fundamental issues.ConclusionAmerican Beauty is a film which opened up an array of critical discussions for its admirableincorporation of various elements. The theme selected is thought provoking. It is relevant as thewhole American population is undergoing such a situation. The director and other crew couldcarry out the endeavor in an effective way by integrating innovative ideas and techniques. Thetreatment of love, sex and other emotions is fresh, and the viewers get a new experience out of it.They can identify themselves with the characters and situations presented in it. In short, themovie American Beauty appeals to all categories of people at all times.
Final Film Critique: American Beauty 9 ReferencesBall, Alan. (1999). American Beauty: The Shooting Script. New York: Newmarket.Chachere, Richard. (2003). American Beauty. Lafayette (La.): Cypremort Point.Johnston, Robert K. (2006). Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.Petrie, Boyd. (2012). "American Beauty Movie Review." American Beauty Movie Review. Homestead.com, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2012. <http://rhinoxsis.homestead.com/zmbeauty.html>.Potter, Cherry. (2001). Screen Language: From Film Writing to Film-making. London: Methuen.