American Beauty (1999) – …Look Closer

“American Beauty” is a directorial debut from Sam Mendes and screened debut from Alan Ball. It’s one of my most ambitious watchlist of all. Kevin Spacey besides winning an Oscar in “The Usual Suspects“, this is the most it comes closest as a “perfect” movie. Both in terms of commercial and quality, the movie won another five Oscar awards. It’s not really surprising but it’s the most beautiful movie just because there was “beauty” in its title. In fact, this is a dark drama movie about dysfunction in family and depressive. Life sucks but funny.

Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham is a middle-aged man. He works as a writer for a magazine. He is not quite a bright person in his life. In fact, he is an “American Hero”. Lester failed to be a good father to his wife and to his daughter. Jane Burnham said about his father that she wants her father to be a role model. Not a horny geeky boy who will spray anything whatever she brings a friend from school. Jane proves and summarizes indirectly her character to Lester. Lester is a person trying to survive in a mid-crisis. He seems to be a father but his job fired him. In addition, he always masturbates every morning even though he married Carolyn.

Annette Bening as Carolyn Burnham is a real-estate entrepreneur. She is an ambitious woman and more concerned with her work. But, she is also weak like Lester whose her own dilemma. For Lester and Carolyn, marriage hasn’t changed anything after a few years. They just feel dead inside and outside yet there is nothing it can be called a family anymore. The only way to improve the whole problem is by doing a divorce. But, it’s not really such an easy case again. It could have a big impact on their only daughter. So, can they fix their problems? There are so many sweet memories in their memories. So how?

Thora Birch as Jane Burnham is a teenager in general regardless of how she hates her parents. She prefers to hang out with her best friend, Mena Suvari as Angela Hayes. She is more attentive but always goes on the wrong track where they always used drugs and related. As this family tries to survive in their respective problems, each of them finally finds what is empty. Emptiness and holes fill various types of voids as the movie goes on. Lester found his emptiness after seeing Angela. Jane is dating Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts who is a stalker. Carolyn Burnham had cheated on her husband after meeting Buddy Kane as their schoolmate whom a wealthy businessman.

The characterization in this film isn’t only there but they introduce their own sub-plot. Relationship between Lester and Ricky indeed more than a friendship. They always talk about movies while using drugs. Ricky’s father, Chris Cooper as Colonel Fitts, realized that they hid a secret yet he misunderstood it. Relationship between Ricky and his father is the same as father and son in general. But, not as good as it was. Ricky’s father always isolates his son and maintains discipline for the good of his child. Even if he is still fighting, he will resort to violence against his son. Therefore, Ricky didn’t develop. Ricky only becomes a sociopathic-like. He is an introvert but self-confident kid.

Ricky uses his camera to record anything like a plastic bag gone with the wind on the Ricky perspective. For Ricky, he enjoyed recording it from the dancing plastic bag, a dead bird, and of course Jane Burnham because he was also a stalker. Angela Hayes is a minor character it’s not too much discussed. However, she is nothing more than a person who wants to be noticed by many people. In the end, he discovered what she was really looking for in her life. Her boyfriend she was making out and whatever it was, she did everything to get attention. It was revealed Lester to Angela it wasn’t such an easy. After knowing everything, Lester felt guilty.

Lester is the one who can relate to the plot so that there is an interesting point in this point of view. There is so much symbolism contained in this film. Like, for example, a red door and a rose of Lester’s fantasy of passion and beauty. In addition, there are dancing plastic bags, funeral, candles, and other symbolism. The visual and cinematography is such a beautiful element. There is so much to talk about regardless of the story. Sam Mendes illusions a family dysfunction on life matters. It’s carried away by all the characters making “American Beauty” as a dark, irony, and funny movie. Life is unpredictable as is Forrest Gump’s favorite and iconic line: “life was like a box of chocolate.”

“American Beauty” is a funny movie because, in fact, it’s really funny. Life has a lot of absurdity and weirdness. It works in both of them as well as its humor aspect. It was created as a unique way so that we, as viewers, feel a powerful yet irony bitterness in this depressing story. Basically, this is a solid movie in terms of plot. But, there are so many interpretations it comes with Alan Ball trying to tell. The movie is very intriguing and even becomes relatable for some people. Especially if you are still not the godfather. The themes of conformity are so felt and powerful in each character. In the end, they realized what they want to achieve.

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Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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