American Beauty: Finding a balance between structure and freedom | Sunday Observer

American Beauty: Finding a balance between structure and freedom

9 April, 2023

American Beauty is a 1999 drama film directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. The film explores themes of beauty, sexuality, and happiness, and it follows the story of Lester Burnham, a suburban father who becomes disillusioned with his life and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

The film explores the lives of a suburban family who seem to have everything: a beautiful home, successful careers, and a seemingly perfect life. However, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that the characters are struggling with a lack of structure and order in their lives.

Mid-life crisis

Lester Burnham, the film’s protagonist, is particularly affected by this lack of structure. At the beginning of the film, Lester is stuck in a dead-end job and going through a midlife crisis. He feels trapped by the routine of his life and yearns for something more.

Throughout the film, Lester begins to break free from the strict structures and expectations that have been placed on him. He quits his job, buys a sports car, and starts working out. He even begins a sexual relationship with his daughter’s friend, further breaking down the boundaries that had previously defined his life.

While Lester’s actions may seem reckless and chaotic, they are actually a response to his deep-seated desire for freedom and self-discovery. He recognizes that the structures and rules that society imposes on us can be suffocating, and he is determined to break free from them in order to live a more fulfilling life.

However, the film also suggests that there is a danger in completely rejecting structure and order. Carolyn Burnham, Lester’s wife, is a character who is deeply invested in maintaining the appearance of order and control in her life. She is obsessed with success and perfection, and her attempts to maintain this image ultimately lead to her unraveling.

In contrast to Lester’s rejection of structure, Carolyn’s rigid adherence to it causes her life to become increasingly chaotic and unmanageable. The film suggests that while structure and order are important, they can also be taken too far, leading to rigidity and ultimately, to self-destruction.

Overall, American Beauty offers a complex and nuanced exploration of the role that structure and order play in our lives. While the film suggests that it is important to break free from suffocating structures and expectations, it also acknowledges the danger of completely rejecting them. In the end, the film suggests that the key to a fulfilling life lies in finding a balance between structure and freedom, and in embracing the chaos and unpredictability that comes with it.

Cinematography and acting

One of the standout features of the film is its cinematography, which is stunning throughout. The use of color, camera angles, and lighting all work together to create a visually stunning film that is a pleasure to watch.

The acting in American Beauty is also excellent. Kevin Spacey delivers an outstanding performance as Lester Burnham, capturing both the character’s humor and his despair. Annette Bening is also exceptional as Lester’s wife, Carolyn, who is struggling to maintain her perfect image in the face of mounting pressure.

The film’s exploration of themes related to beauty, sexuality, and happiness is both thought-provoking and moving. The film raises important questions about what it means to be truly happy and fulfilled, and it does so in a way that is both subtle and profound.

Overall, ‘American Beauty’ is a powerful and engaging film that is well worth watching. The combination of stunning cinematography, excellent acting, and thought-provoking themes make it a film that is sure to stick with you long after the credits roll.