Existentialism In American Beauty

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The film American Beauty is a 1999 drama about an office worker named Lester Burnham, who is going through a middle life crisis. During this time he becomes obsessed with his teenage daughter's best friend, Angela. Lester lives with his wife, Carolyn Burnham and their only daughter Jane. In the film, Lester Burnham worked as a magazine journalist who in fact, hates his job. His wife, Carolyn was a real estate agent and seemed a bit uptight. Their daughter Jane hates both Lester and Carolyn and suffers from low self-esteem. The new neighbors move in next door which included a homophobic ex-marine for the U.S, Frank Fitts, his wife, and his teenage son Ricky who attends the same high school as Jane and Angela. Jane and Ricky happen to cross paths because Ricky loves to record his surroundings which included Jane as his primary subject. Frank is a strict disciplinarian to Ricky. The boy was often beat by his father through out the film. American Beauty presents a progressive and darkly cynical view of American Suburban culture, suggesting that the cultural norms present within the american society encourage loneliness, depression, and fanatical materialism. In essence the title of this essay, "The Suburban Prison". Looking at this film from an Existentialist perspective, one must first refer to Jean-Paul Sartre's essay "Existentialism is Humanism". Sartre wrote the essay to address those critiques and to clarify the main ideas of the philosophy. In the essay Sartre mentioned the phrase "existence comes before essence". What does this mean? For human beings there is no predefined pattern that one must fit into. Living life and that is what truly defines one, not any idealized set of characteristics. This concept applies to the Ameri... ... middle of paper ... ... what was really going on with Ricky and Lester's friendship. He asked Ricky about it and when he heard the answer he wasn't looking for, although it was a lie, he kicked Ricky out and said he never wanted to see him again. Frank went over to the Burnham's to confront Lester. Frank attempted to kiss Lester but he refused, and Fitts left. In his discussion of abandonment Jean-Paul Sartre insists that "man is free" or "man is condemned to be free" which simply means, you have the right to get away from all problems. Big or small. You had the will to be free. One can see Sartre's meaning of these two quotes at the end of American Beauty film when Frank Fitts killed Lester Burnham buy shooting him in the head. Lester's voice at the end let viewers know that although his loved ones were grieving he was free from his misery. He was happy to be free from all his problems.

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