There are numerous significant motives in the1999 film entitled American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes. In this film, Lester Burnham– a 42-year-old, depressed suburban father has a mid-life crisis and voluntarily decides to turn his chaotic life around after developing a fascination for his daughters attractive friend, Angela. Similarly, The title American Beauty is proven to be significant with the satirical lust between Lester and Angela , Lester realizing the beauty throughout his life sincerely, and the American beauty rose used as a symbol.
This representation allows the director to ultimately suggest that everyone will see the beauty in America and their lives. In the movie American Beauty, the lust portrayed is shown very satirically and creates a deep affect on the characters throughout the film. For example, lust is illustrated when Lester notices Angela for the first time and feels instantly compelled to her. Which gives the allusion of beauty but ultimately is very disturbing because of Angela’s age. Although, Lester suddenly feels the need to know Angela.
Subsequently, after meeting her he says, “ It’s the weirdest thing I feel like I’ve been in a comma for about 20 years and I’m just now waking up” (American Beauty). In stating this, Lester explains how he felt like he was living every day like the last and not really living at all until he met Angela. To elaborate, Lester states, “The highlight of my day is masturbating in the shower” (American Beauty). By using the word “highlight” sows that it’s the most arousing part of his day which he combines with masturbating. Although, after he meets Angela he feels as though he was “waking up” for the first time (American Beauty).
This feeling leads him to start working out, smoking weed, and working at his old teenage job in order to get Angela interested in him. Therefore, the lust shown between Lester and Angela depicts the title American Beauty because of the want or need to feel wanted and loved by someone. Lastly, Lester realizing the beauty in his life helps prove the implication of the title. With Lester feeling as if his life is pathetic and boring in the beginning of the film, to the end where he feels as though he is “great. ” For example, Lester states, “ I am grateful for every moment in my stupid life “ (American Beauty).
Meaning that Lester knew most times his life was “stupid,” although he still saw the beauty in everything. Lester sincerely finds the beauty in his life right before he is murdered and continues to after he dies. He says, “I guess I could be pissed about what happened to me, but there is so much beauty in the world” (American Beauty). Implying that he felt as though he could be mad that his life was taken from him, but he finally witnessed his daughter being happy and in love and realized that he truly still loved his wife. Therefore, he has no choice but to be thankful for the life he had been given.
This strongly depicts the American beauty by allowing Lester to sincerely see beauty in his dysfunctional life. The rose called American beauty is introduced various times as a symbol throughout the film. The rose is presented satirically for the first time when Carolyn is trimming her American beauty rose bushes in the front yard. Everything seems to be perfect with the white picket fence and the suburban house-wife outside doing yard work. Although, like the rose, everything is beautiful at first glace, but when you look deeper you see the thorns and the dysfunction within the family.
In addition, the American beauty rose is also introduced countless times while Lester is fantasizing about Angela. For example, the moment Lester spots Angela for the first time he imagines her undressing for him while being the only ones in an auditorium. She opens her shirt and vibrant rose pedals come flowing from her chest (American Beauty). This represents the beauty that he not only sees in her; though, also the beauty that she brings to his life. Which is portrayed to be very satirical because of his fanaticizing about Angela who is a young girl.
Hence, the significance of the title American Beauty and the representation that is shown through the American beauty rose. Although, some may say that the American beauty rose is portrayed sincerely in the film. They might argue that at the end of the film, when Lester has just seen the beauty throughout his life, there is a vibrant bouquet of American beauty roses on the table in front of him. Showing the sincere feelings of beauty that Lester is realizing for the first time while looking at his family portrait. People can also argue that in the next scene where
Lester has been killed the roses are suddenly blackened and dead. Also, the vivid red blood splattered around the flowers helps portray the lack of color and beauty in the roses it self. This sincerely shows the ugliness of deaths and the arrival of death when Lester had just recognized the beauty in his life. Therefore one may argue the American beauty rose is portrayed as sincere as well as satirical. Subsequently, this shows the representation of American Beauty allows the director to ultimately suggest that everyone will see the beauty in America and their lives.
While every character in the film was dysfunctional they all came to a realization of the beauty in their lives at the end of the movie. Although each character didn’t have to loose their life to see the beauty, the murder of Lester allowed the beauty to be revealed and also enables the characters to have a somewhat epiphany. In conclusion, Janet Maslin, a film critic from the New York Times states, “if you don’t feel the film’s piercing vision of what really matters, someday you will” ( 293). Therefore restating that everyone will see the beauty in the dysfunction of America someday before or after they die.