My friend Keel gave me American Beauty and told me that I would be "blown away." I have to say that after watching it the first time, I was quite impressed with the film itself. However, as I watched it a second time, I found peculiarities in the film, and I even noticed some of them the first time. They were parts that seemed to go along with the film, but failed to uphold to the philosophy it seemed to be preaching. The film is about a family of three: a father who goes on living without the thrill of life, a daughter obsessed with physical beauty, and a mother whose only passion is her work as a realtor. The story goes on to show how these three individuals learn to break free of life's bondages. Although this may seem fair and good when first observed, they go about it in a very disagreeable way. The father, for instance, blackmails his company for rumors and a sexual advance that never took place, only to spend the money from the blackmail on drugs and weight lifting equipment -- he eventually gets a job at a fast food restaurant. The mother cheats on her husband with another realtor who teaches her how to shoot a gun. The way the daughter breaks free from these bondages of life is the only way I can really approve of: she meets a boy, falls in love, and becomes happy.
But even beyond that, there are other parts of the film which appear highly moronic and contradictory. In one scene of the film, the character played by Kevin Spacey -- Lester Burnham -- buys a car that he had always wanted. It was one of the memorable scenes where he raised his hand in the air and said, "I always wanted it and now I have it. I rule!" Only moments later, his wife tells Lester that he is about to spill beer on the $4,000 couch. Lester explodes, "It's just a couch! This isn't life. This is just stuff. It has become more important to you than living and that's just nuts." This just came from a man who obtained his happiness from purchasing a brand new car. When he wants a physical possession to appease his desire for happiness, anything in his way becomes irrelevant, but when he accidentally or purposely damages another's possession, he calls them fickle, meaningless, unhappy, insecure. Shortly after this scene, he refers to his actions as, "I'm just trying to help you."
One of the themes the wife of Lester Burnham -- Carolyn Burnham -- learns is, "To be successful, one must project an image of success." Even after finding her escape through having an affair with another man, she still believes this. I find the theme rather immature, though.
Carolyn and Lester Burnham have a daughter: Jane. She falls in love with a boy named Ricky Fitts. Ricky gets his jollies from videotaping people and objects that he finds beautiful. In a conversation between Jane and Ricky....
There are scenes in movies like this where you ask yourself, "Do we really need a definition of poor film making when we have this movie?" The dialog is impressively moronic, but that's nothing compared to what they actually discuss. There are some, of course, who may see this scene and cry because it is so touching. Those individuals are, typically, people who have never picked up a book in their entire life. To infer the obscure Rubik's Cube of philosophy, or the even more obscure deity of Christian Mythology, -- god -- as a form of beauty is to say nothing. Ricky Fitts may as well have said, "When you see something like that, it's like looking at X." When asked, "And what do you see?" He would respond, "Beauty." I am not sure if there are many other ways to show the absurdity of this dialogged It is but a mere collection of words; it is not even art.
Another scene in the movie is when Ricky and Jane watch a film he taped. It was a video of a bag being blown by the wind. My friend Keel referred to this as, "brilliant." On the contrary, I would find it to be also stupid. Not necessarily because of the scene, but rather because of the horrendous dialogged that accompanies it. He says, "That was the day that I realized that there was this entire life behind things. And this incredibly benevolent force wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid ever. The video was a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember. I need to remember. Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it. And my heart is just gonna cave in." Unfortunately, I don't think the best acting in the world can save this film from the worst script writing in the Universe. "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it. And my heart is just gonna cave in." You really have to repeat it to yourself to realize just how awful that is. I fail to see how an excess of beauty would cause one's heart to cave in. Furthermore, as previously defined, beauty is looking at god, the mysteriously undefined entity, roaming the script of this poorly made film. What makes it worse is that the actors are dummied up to be sentimental at this point. The dialogged in this film is absolutely awful.
The ending of the film only made the hole deeper. Lester Burnham is killed and he states that you can only appreciate life's moments when you die. "You probably won't know what I'm talking about. But you will one day." That logic is tantamount to the logic used by the Christian theologians. "A man must be faithful when he is young because he will only understand its purpose when he becomes old." One of Lester Burnham's fantasies was to have sex with a particular 16 year old girl whom he engaged in some preliminary sexual activity, but never did have sex. Happiness to some is being content with where your ambition takes you -- to others, like Lester, happiness is sex with your daughter's best friend. Although there is certainly nothing immoral about it, it is a rather shallow and hollow fantasy. It is not about art, or expression, or beauty, in any sense of the words.
Some good things about this film: the main female (Jane) character was ugly. Okay, so maybe it was only one good thing about the film. Other than that, the film itself presented itself to be very meaningful, but the underlying sentiments were the epitome of being shallow and hollow. That is the movie summed up.