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Analysing “American Beauty” Essay

This review is about American Beauty – a typical “teen flick” and “Black Comedy”, which constitutes many around sex, lust and desire and also problems in family life, starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Benning. The film is about the life of a dysfunctional family of 2 middle-aged parents that find new infatuations for themselves, and their daughter Jane (played by Thora Birch), whom the film is mainly based around. Jane is a 16 year old who is insecure, angry and has very little cares in the world, very much like the stereotypical teenager.

Lester (Jane’s father) played by Kevin Spacey, is middle-aged and fed up of his normal and none lightened life, indicated at the beginning of the film when he says that “Jerking off in the shower is probably the highlight of his day”. He has a dead end job as a magazine publisher and finds everyday goes by as clockwork. Jane’s best friend, Angela (played by Mina Suvari), soon interests Lester when he goes to see his daughter as a cheerleader at a football match, and he fantasizes about her nearly all the time.

Carolyn (Jane’s mother, played by Annette Benning) is a middle-aged real estate agent, who tries her best at everything but gets dragged down by her failure with both her career and marriage. High-flying estate agent Buddy Kane seduces her, and she finds a new awakening and something more exciting than husband Lester. But with the entire goings on with her parents Jane finds real love of her own, the “boy next door” Ricky, who sees her beauty. The film opens up with a clip that is taken from later on in the film, which is of Jane being filmed by Ricky as she is talking about her problem with her father.

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The picture is very dark and she is wearing a dark dress and black lipstick, with the very silent background it almost seems evil. They get onto the topic of killing her father… or “putting him out of his misery”. When Ricky offers to kill him for her she sits up and looks down into the camera, and in a short, snappy voice says, “Yea, would ya? ” Then the screen goes black with a drumbeat, and the film title appears in a simple, small font in Red. Traditionally, Red and Black together tend to mean Horror, but in this case the film is not a horror, but we get the idea that a death is involved.

The next scene, we come to an overview of the town that the family live in, zooming down onto the street with Lester speaking over the top. Lester lets us know in voice-over from the film’s opening that this is the day he dies (using the Sunset Boulevard flashback approach), a technique that adds an inevitable tension to the proceedings and keeps the story moving forward at all times. “I’ll be dead in less than a year… you could say I’m dead already! ”

The colour Red features a lot in this film, the Red roses which connote love and beauty and the red front door, which Lester’s wife goes through before she shoots him. Red blood is then seen on the table. Red is a fiery colour which also connotes desire, as we a lot of them when Lester is fantasising about Angela. The representation of what the family think of Lester is shown in the scene when Carolyn is driving everyone to work and school. Carolyn is driving which suggests dominance, and with Jane riding up front with her mother justifies the family hierarchy (dad slumped in back of car almost suggests scum).

The scene when Lester actually does sit in the front with Carolyn still driving (stereotyping a strong, wilful woman) they argue, which ultimately represents relationships problems. In the first ten minutes of the film, the music used mainly is an upbeat, teasing percussion sound (probably by a Glock), which is quite stirring, and could represent frustration. There is another type of music that we hear towards the end of the first ten minutes of the film, and that’s the music that plays when new neighbour Ricky, is filming Jane and hear father in the kitchen.

The music is a slow and beautiful piano music with violin in the background. It’s music you would almost expected to hear in a love story but it’s kind of stirring, like the film. It also has an eerie feeling to it, as we already have the suggestion of death but what Jane says into the camera as Ricky is filming her, and the colour red once again suggests a death. Lester even says it himself. A multi-national film works called Dreamworks produced American Beauty, and directed by a man called Sam Mendes.

His recent movie release Road to Perdition (2002), wasn’t as big a hit as American Beauty, but still was rated a good film. Based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, the Depression-era crime epic Road to Perdition stars Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan, a quiet hit man who is duty bound to Mafia boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). The mobster’s close bond with Sullivan, however, leads Rooney’s jealous blood son, Connor (Daniel Craig), to orchestrate a tragic series of events that results in Sullivan on the run with his 12-year-old son, Michael Jr. Tyler Hoechlin).

Soon an unscrupulous crime photographer/assassin named Maguire (Jude Law) is sent after Sullivan and his son, and Sullivan must decide on a course of action as young Michael comes to terms with his father’s violent way of life. Again, it’s another film that is based around a family, which we can probably guess from the movies genre “Tragic Mobster” movie; there will be a death with in this family. This can link to American Beauty in that respect.

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