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American Beauty

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Just imagine dying, and in a split second, seeing your short life flash before your eyes. You would then have the chance to fully comprehend and evaluate your life. Were you truly happy with your life or were you completely miserable? The film American Beauty, written by Alan Ball and produce by Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks, takes a closer look at two ordinary American families. The film exposes your typical, middle-class suburban American home and slowly uncovers all of the abnormalities that lie within. The two families, and their relationships with friends, neighbors, and co-workers are analyzed very closely. The film also takes a closer look at every individual as one and the purpose of their lives as individuals. The film focuses on one character, Lester, who feels like has no control over his life and no say in his family. Lester has many people who affect his life: Carolyn the wife, Jane the rebel teenage daughter, Ricky the next-door neighbor, Ricky's dad Frank, the ex-marine, and Jane's cheerleader friend Angela. As the film progresses, it is seen how these individuals' personalities intervene in each other's lives and by the end their real persona comes out, instead of the false individual they had pertain to be. The movie begins with camcorder footage of a teenager reclining on bed, complaining about her father, who is socially weird and ordinary. The man with the camcorder then asks, "You want me to kill him for you?" The teenager girl pauses for moment, and then says, "Yeah, would you?" The film then begins with Lester, the narrator of the film and father of the teenage girl complaining about him at the beginning. "In less than a year," he says to the audience, "I'll be dead. Of course, I don't know that yet. And in a way, I'm dead already." The beginning of the film hints at the mess in Lester's family and the death that is going to occur. Lester and Carolyn Burnham are on the outside, a perfect husband and wife, in a perfect house and in a perfect neighborhood. But inside, Lester is slipping deeper and deeper into a hopeless depression and Carolyn feels like the victim of the hopeless marriage who is cheating on her husband. Lester finally snaps when he becomes obsessed with one of his daughter's friends, Angela. Meanwhile, his daughter Jane is developing a happy friendship with the shy boy next door named Ricky who lives with a controlling father. One of the major themes of the movie is the focus of the materialistic nature of Americans, and how this affects their relationships and emptiness of communications. Illustrated in a scene where Carolyn and Lester are about to kiss and Carolyn ruins it by exclaiming, "Lester, you're going to spill beer on the couch!" The film also examines the theme about taking control of one's owns happiness. As both Carolyn and Lester realize that they are not happy and are not fulfilling their life's' needs. As a result, they begin to dramatically change their lifestyles to fulfill their new goals. Finally, American Beauty explores the nature of true beauty. Beauty is not simply defined by artistic means. The simplicity of beauty and the overpowering feeling that a person gets at the sight of it is discovering the beauty found in traditionally unbeautiful things. Seeing this true beauty, as Ricky describes it, would be overwhelming and would make one feel like "their heart was caving in". This is the beauty that is at the center of Ricky's recordings, because he tries to capture simple things that are beautiful and no one else can see.

Many concepts of psychology were express in this film. The three teens in the film, Angela, Jane, and Ricky are very normal teenagers trying to discover their identity and role in life. Angela appears to be going through Erikson's identity versus role confusion. She pretends to be somebody who she is not because she believes that is what society expects out of her, and she is extremely egocentric. Her egocentrism is shown, when Ricky is filming Jane, and Angela reopens the curtain so she can be filmed or how Angela is very surprise that Ricky doesn't even look at her. Angela lies about having sex with many partners, sleeping with her photographer, and pretends to be a very confident person when deep inside she is really not. She does all this because this what her peers and society expect out of her. She is confused about her role in life and her identity as an individual. Angela appears to have reached identity achievement at the end of the film. She confesses to Lester that she is virgin and begins to tell the truth. At this point she begins to understand who she is as a unique individual and what she needs to do to fulfill her goals and move toward her future. Jane shows a negative identity throughout the movie. She is rebelling her parents by acting the opposite to how they expect of her. Her parents expect a well-manner, talkative, nice person, but she instead, talks back to her parents and doesn't communicate with them. Jane is also confused about her identity. She expresses wanting to get breast implants, because she doesn't appreciate the beauty she has. This is very typical of a girl teen, always finding something wrong with her body and thinking of extremes to improve it. Ricky appears to be the only one who has achieved identity achievement. He clearly understands and assumes total responsibility for what he is doing and comprehends his goals in life. Most significant, Ricky is also the most satisfied of the characters. While he has endured a hard life with emotionless parents, mainly his hard father, and been in a mental hospital, he is content with the way things are and instead of stressing over what life has been or can become prefers to see only life's

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