Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty

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Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty Directed by Sam Mendes in 1999, 'American Beauty' is set in a seemingly typical suburban neighbourhood that gives an in depth look beneath the surface. An ordinary, financially well-to-do family is followed through the point of view of the father (Kevin Spacey). He narrates his life and lets the audience in on all of his quirks, flaws and limitations, as well as those of his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) and his daughter (Thora Birch). The film exemplifies the idea of achieving the 'American Dream' - not necessarily to reach your ultimate goal in life but to portray the image of reaching that goal. In addition, the film won 5 Oscars, including best picture and was praised for the directors use of imagery and editing. Carolyn Burnham, played by Annette Being, portrays a dynamic character in the film. Her key traits help us to understand how her personality works. In this particular extract of the film we learn about Carolyn's character from the use of language, camera shots, music, physical and vocal expressions and other presentational devices. 'Mis en Scene' is also used in this particular scene and is particularly effective as it enables the audience to understand how Carolyn interacts with the objects around her and this reveals more about her personality. The shot opens with Carolyn putting up a 'for sale' sign outside a property she is trying to sell. Here she is organised, prepared and optimistic. She then glances to a house across the road where a bigger, bolder sign is. Her facial expression immediately changes to self-doubt, as she realises she has competition. She then takes contr... ... middle of paper ... ...ntrol her emotions in front of the clients she punishes herself for failing. Through Annette Bening's acting techniques we learn that there are almost two sides to Carolyn's personality: the positive, determined, optimistic side that she only lets her clients see, and the child-like side that cannot handle failure disappointment or imperfection. In conclusion, Carolyn is obsessive, perfectionist and cannot handle pressure or failure. We receive this information about Carolyn through the different camera shots, acting techniques and presentational devices. These devices are so efficient that the audience can portray Carolyn's personality in seconds, whilst the different shots are being played. They also help the audience to comprehend and understand how her personality works and what her true character is really like.

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