American Beauty written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
This is a fabulous film.
- “Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.”
And there is beauty in this work of art, which has a stellar cast, wonderful script, beautiful cinematography, memorable lines, a resplendent music that I loved so much that I used it for my ringtone.
The characters are complex, with Kevin Spacey magnificent in the lead role of Lester Burnham, the hero and narrator.
He tells us from the first lines what will happen to him, so there is no need for a spoiler alert, with the story remaining fascinating in spite of the revealed grand finale.
Lester is married with Carolyn, even if this is just a “front” and they have a daughter, Jane, who has a friend Angela.
Lester is kind, likable, funny, smart, and sociable and the man who blackmails, throws tantrums, smokes marijuana, encourages a young man to sell him illegal substance and has perverse thoughts concerning his daughter’s friend.
The lust for a teenager and the effort to go to bed with her could be an illegal activity and it certainly is immoral and abject, depending on the age of his “paramour”.
It is also true that the complexity of the hero is emphasized when he finds more about the real status of a girl that likes to boast about many lovers, sucking d...k and other shenanigans and has a change of heart...or maybe better said of mind?
- “Ricky Fitts: It's like God's looking right at you, just for a second, and if you're careful... you can look right back.
- Jane Burnham: And what do you see?
- Ricky Fitts: Beauty.”
The storyline is so challenging, it includes so many angles and it is so sophisticated that I think this is one of the best films around.
The humor is mixed with drama, like when Carolyn accidently comes to the burger place where she meets her spouse and is caught in the act of kissing someone else…the King of Real Estate, who had just been honored with – f..k me your Majesty…who is the king? You are the king…who is the king!? Do it your majesty!
The satire refers to the fact that so often suburbia, middle class families, ordinary people hide such terrible stories.
Carolyn Burnham wants to project an image of success, by that meaning money, power, sales, status and good social position.
Positive psychology studies demonstrate that money is important only in as much as they offer stability.
Past the level of comfort- about $ 3- 4,000 income per month- additional wealth does not bring about significant increases in life satisfaction.
Carolyn has a very bad opinion about her husband, even if for most of the movie the audience is inclined to hate her and sympathize with the poor man, seeing as she appears cold, robotic and cuts the trees of her neighbors.
Looking beneath the surface however, we see a woman that is close to breakdown, tries hard to be “successful” and live the “American Dream”, which is itself in question here, seeing as most envisage it as having more “stuff”, buying more and more useless items just because we can and they are advertised as necessary or boosting status.
The Dalai Lama comes to mind and his visit to the supermarket where he said: “Wow, so many things I don’t need!!”
Then there is the family next door, with the repressed colonel Fitts, who is violent and abusive with his son, a homophobic parent, but hiding sexual desires that he cannot admit to anyone including himself.
The mother appears to be a wreck, not able to remember that her son does not eat bacon and acts like a ghost.
Ricky Fitts gets involved with Jane Burnham, but he is a strange young man, selling dope and recovering- perhaps- from earlier traumas, having been hospitalized and traumatized by his father and his experiences.
Angela offers some of the very beautiful moments of the film, within a bathroom covered by rose petals, dancing and the same multitude of rose petals flying from her opening cleavage and then firing up the imagination of Lester Burnham with the cheerleaders ‘dance.
“There is so much beauty in this chef d’oeuvre”, in which the actors are almost perfect, the images splendid and the message intense:
- “I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I'm talking about I'm sure, but don't worry, you will someday.”