Beauty And Reality In American Beauty

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Sam Mendes’s provocative debut film American Beauty was a blockbuster after its release in 1999, wrapping up three accolades at the Golden Globe Awards, reaping nominations in miscellaneous film festivals. Beauty and reality are the two major and discrepant elements in the film. Symbolically, beauty eludes humans’ possession, and such elusion is often offset by its presenting a form of reflection on the reality. Thrills, often followed by disillusionment, of quasi obtainment of such heavenly beauty feed humans’ incessant pursuit of beauty in reality. In the film, beauty gets lurid, and reality becomes horrid. A black comedy, American Beauty achieves a Grotesque atmosphere by escalating such disparity to a peak at which the protagonist Lester Burnham irrevocably bursts to death, posing a proposition of man’s raison d’être. The urge to merge in the society contradicts individuality. Carolyn, Janie and Lester– the Burnham family sets the framework and motion of the film. They epitomize three levels of mergence in the society or release of their individuality. Wife of Lester, Carolyn is a real estate saleswoman who craves for success. She wears delicate makeup, maintains an undulant figure, and strains to behave with decorum. In a scene while she is at her open house, she tirelessly repeats to herself, “I will sell the house today”. However, she fails; she enters a room, shutters all windows with elegance, then she cries, screams, and manically slaps herself in the face, “Shut up! Stop it! You weak! You baby! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” (12:42-13:22). Carolyn’s pursuit of success and social approval reveals her closing off individuality in return for mergence in society. Her rejuvenative love affair with a successful real estate agent... ... middle of paper ... ...t I don’t want to lie to her” is Lester’s cold-blooded assessment of Janie. As a voice of reason, he knows that nothing is going to pass. Nevertheless, Lester tells the audience, after his death, that “I remembered 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”, unburdening the audience from Grotesqueness the film emits, enchanting them with hope in reality. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” is one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous quotes. American Beauty starts with an overlook of Lester’s town, with its focus smoothly moves downwards from the sky to his gutter-like suburbia; it ends with the focus segues upwards to the sky. Mendes conveys: let Grotesqueness be the norm, for we are all alive, seeking beauty.

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