American Beauty: A Struggle of Mixing Appereance with Reality

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

A surplus amount of people in the common everyday life usually are not content with what they have. Instead, they possess a drive that makes them desire what they cannot have, also known as envy. Moreover, our culture is consumed with the vacant promises of materialism, like having a well-paying job, perfect family and/or luxurious house. Having the image of being happy but in reality, happiness is what they lack. The American beauty is a film that premiered in 1999. The film is centered on a suburban family; Lester, the main protagonist, Carolyn, the wife and Jane, the daughter. American beauty demonstrates what it would seem to be a stereotypical modern suburban family in America, representing in a dark cynical way, the culture society has in this era; revealing the struggles with the negative side of appearance vs reality, and discovering happiness.

A façade is an external appearance that is maintained to obscure a less pleasing or laudable reality. Usually delineated by one who is unhappy but is not willing to reveal their melancholy so they put up a mask to not only delude others but also themselves. This happens to be a major theme in the film, which is confronted by most character presented. Carolyn Burnham, who is clearly in denial of her lifestyle, is obsessed with her job. She believes that the way to happiness is to be successful. Ironically, even though she has a successful life, it is blatantly obvious that she is not fulfilled by her success and possessions she has. She attempts to be exultant through her career as real estate agent but manages to fail at selling houses. In a scene near the beginning of the film, Carolyn is cleaning the house and she constantly states to herself “I will sell this house today”. She than breaks down crying when she is alone, with a close up shot to make the scene more emotional, due to the fact that she was not able to sell a house (Ball) As the story progresses, she even clearly utters to Lester in a party they went to “Act happy tonight” so that she can allude the people to believe that they are in a happy relationship since that is involved with being successful.

Furthermore, Jane’s friend, Angela Hayes also projects an image of herself to be this popular, confident, beautiful girl who everyone wants and finds very attractive and interesting. In reality she is just this insecure girl, which is why she constantly bashes at other people about being unadorned, dull, ugly and so on because she truly feels deep down that she has all those flaws. In one scene, which happens to be very ironic, she gets to a dispute with these girl and in the end she says “I am so sick of people taking out there insecurities on me” which happens to be exactly what she is doing. Also near the end of the movie, Ricky barges in and requests Jane to go with him to New York and Jane agrees. Upon hearing this, Angela lashes out at them, causing Ricky to lash back stating her flaws so she storms out. The scene right after that we witness her sitting on the stairs, sobbing, in the darkness of the night with the camera behind the bars on the stairs if we were observing her, and blueish tint added to add more affect to the sadness and hurt she must be feeling (Ball.)

Additionally, another character that struggles with appearance vs reality would be Ricky’s father, Colonel Fitts. From the commencement we get a vibe that he abhors homosexuals and does not support them in any sort of way. He seems very belligerent towards them, and it is made clear about how he feels towards them. It personally gives the impression that he has all this hostility towards homosexuals since he himself might actually be sexually confused but wants to give the image of power and manhood. At one point he suspects that his son and Lester are having a sexual relationship with each other and confirms it when Ricky goes over to give Lester more marijuana and from Colonel’s point of view, it seems otherwise. This causes him to confront his son and you can see how distraught the colonel is when his son, who lies about what he truly did and confirms being gay. Conclusively causing the Colonel to break down crying after Ricky decides to leave. Eventually leading to the confrontation between Lester and Colonel Fitts, who at that point was seemed to be infuriated, due to the scenes tone with the rain and thunder, the darkish tone and the Colonel shaking from rage, it would seem that way but instead after being comforted, it is realized that he truly is sexually confused, which results in him kissing Lester. Lester than rejects him due to the obvious misunderstanding. Unfortunately the situation happens to get considerably worse, making the colonel in complete denial about the reality of his “complication” and not wanting to deal with the veracity, he murders Lester. This movie noticeably through the whole movie demonstrates that sometimes things aren’t always what they seem. A majority of the time, due to denial, fear of change and complications, people put up a pretense that all is well. As shown, not being true to yourself leads to horrific results.

Happiness is a big factor on people’s life and in this film is definitely a lacking factor. In the start you can notice that there are more people who are unhappy than happy. In the intro of the movie, when Lester is narrating, straight of the bat he says “in a way, I’m already dead” (Ball.) So we already get a revelation that the main character of this story is not pleased at all with his life. With him and his wife not being on good terms, his daughter wants nothing to do with either parents, and a job he doesn’t even enjoys. This is clearly seen in the scene where they are eating together at the table. Later on, his wife tells him to act happy at the party they are in, in which he retorts he is happy in a sarcastic tone. In the act of his wife wishes, he kisses his wife out of the blue and states they have a real healthy relationship, which in fact, they do not. Eventually after realizing he wants Jane’s friend, she becomes the spark of his initiation to becoming happy. He realizes that he is tired of his life and desires to change so that he can be joyful in which he surprises his self in the start of his change, where he states “It ‘s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you ‘ve forgotten about” (Ball.) Eventually, near his death, Lecter gets asked by Angela how he is doing, in which he replies that he is great. At this point he finally realized that he finally retained his happiness.Even after he dies, he narrates the end, and he realizes the beauty in life and becomes grateful for his “stupid little life.” (Ball.) Jane achieves her happiness through Ricky, as her letting him into her life made her happy. Ricky from the start always had happiness, he regarded the world to be beautiful, which is why he filmed every little thing. Carolyn found her happiness through buddy but let it go due to her ideals of success. Everyone needs happiness, without happiness, life I just tedious and uninteresting. Each character has their own kind of joy, some already have it, others are on the way of developing it, and some obtain it but then let it go. Nonetheless, no matter your age, it’s never too late to get what you want to be blissful.

Life is full of numerous surprises, it has its abundant of Obstacles and can usually be Complicated and also very overwhelming and confusing at times. Especially when one strives to obtain what they want. Through this film, we get the opportunity to experience what it means to struggle with putting on a façade and not dealing with reality but also we get to witness the realization of what true happiness is and that sometimes change is needed to obtain it. That is the luxury of life, to attain your goals and wishes, strive for the best and never do something or stay in something that causes you misery. Life is too short, as shown in the movie, so live it to the fullest.


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