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The movie American Beauty is a dark comedy that is not for the easily offended. It is a provocatively funny, heartbreaking, and profound film about the power of beauty and the effect it can have on the heart that is open to it. It is about the American Dream gone wrong and the search for happiness outside of materialistic objects. It illustrates the way that the American Dream can cause a person to live a shallow materialistic and unfulfilling life (Johnston, 2006, pg. 101).
The movie mocks the media-generated illusions without resorting to either a simple fatalism or perverse cynicism. Lester Burnham, the film’s hero is ignored by his wife and unloved by his daughter. He is shriveled of soul until an infatuation with his daughters’ cheerleader friends shocks him alive. He literally begins to smell the roses. The film portrays him as a man who does not know what his role in life is and fears growing old. The movie touches on issues that are basic to human emotions. It constantly emphasizes the feelings of loneliness, emptiness, discontent and true beauty. Each character portrays these themes in a different way.
Some of the themes that the film examines include themes of boredom, loneliness and desperation in suburban America. It is wrenching in its honesty and inspirational in the hope and perspective it offers. However, the themes of perfection, love, freedom, true happiness and self-liberation are the ones that stand out. This paper will examine the theme of perfection.
Theme of perfectionism
Mainly Lester’s wife Carolyn brings about this theme. She cultivates forced perfectionism as a real estate agent and as a homemaker. For example, the table setting and background music for family dinners are more important to her than the interactions that take place in the table amongst the team members. She evaluates the American Beauty roses that she has grown in the front yard (so that they can be seen) with a critical eye, more interested in fertilizer and growing methods than in the loveliness of the blossoms. The theme of obsession can further be illustrated with her obsession with uniformity; the color of her gardening clogs matches the color of her pruning shears (Mraz, 2004, pg. 73).
However, perfectionism has a price Carolyn sacrifices a loving relationship with her family as well as much of her integrity for appearances and gradually loses touch with reality and sense of self. She has sacrificed a lot for her lifestyle.
Each characters actions due to their feelings of discontent and emptiness becomes inter-twined and climax in a very memorable and disturbing ending. The movie American Dream is is memorable because of how its characters feel discontented about their life and therefore expresses themselves in ways that center on the sub-themes of love, freedom, true happiness and self-liberation (Monaco, 2010, pg. 306).