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American Beauty

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The theme of beauty, and specifically American beauty, emerges through all of the main characters in the movie. The American Beauty could be the sultry teen Angela, the epitome of blonde American sex appeal. Carolyn's obsessive tending her rose garden is a pervasive and double-sided symbol of beauty, as her flowers are a thin cover for the ugliness in her life. Perhaps the greatest messenger of beauty in the film is Ricky Fitts, the eccentric pot-smoking teenager who through his camera lens perceives beauty everywhere he looks, so much beauty that he feels his "heart is going to cave in." Regardless, beauty is found everywhere in this film and is portrayed by various characters, symbols, and scenes."

Lester and Carolyn are bonds that no longer hold them together. Indeed, all that binds them together is their own inertia about making a move to change their situation. Each is looking elsewhere for what the marriage once gave them. Lester at the beginning of the film still holds the traditional role as breadwinner, but he abandons this when he is fired. He does get another job at a fast-food restaurant, but his wife has been pursuing a career in real estate at the same time, showing that she wants to assume the role of breadwinner and may soon not need Lester at all." At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Lester in his own words as the narrator. We are given a portrait of a man, who in his early forties, is stagnating in life. He is involved in a loveless, sexless, marriage with an over-controlling wife, Carolyn. He is working at a job in which he finds no meaning. And, as a father, he is held in utter contempt by his only daughter, Jane.

Lester is a man that possesses a passive anima, an aspect that has made him reliant on the women in his life for its representation: his mother, his wife Carolyn, and eventually in the film by Angela Hayes, a high-school-age friend of his daughter.

Throughout this process, Lester begins what might be called a "regression in the service of transcendence". He attempts to revert back to the man he was before he entered this developmental "coma". He begins exercising for a more youthful body. He sells his new car for a 1970 Pontiac Firebird. He buys a remote control toy car. He begins listening to music he has forgotten long ago, music from the 1970's. He decorates the garage in early 1970's dйcor and starts smoking marijuana. And he quits his responsible job for the one he held as a teenager: a fast-food fry cook.

[..] It can be argued that this regressive state is spurned on and modeled after the influence of the Burnham's new eighteen-year-old neighbor, Ricky Fitts; a boy that becomes a parallel character, Lester's figurative "hero", and the one that give Lester a taste of his adolescence through marijuana. We see this overtly when Ricky quits his job in front of Lester and Lester admits that he "just became my personal hero". Also, a bit later in the film, Lester talks nostalgically with Ricky as he describes his life as an eighteen-year-old: "When I was your age, I flipped burgers all summer just to be able to buy an eight-track. . .. it was great. All I did was party and get laid. . . . I had my whole life ahead of me."

They have been fooled into thinking that the American Dream involves materialism and status, and that these things will provide joy.

Carolyn struggles mightily to seem -- and to try to make herself be -- joyful, cheerful, even giddy. Since this is so utterly false, and requires so much energy to do, when she is alone, she often gives way to tears, frustration, and wretched misery.

Carolyn is emotional. Lester is (at first) emotionally repressed -- as is Jane. And in general -- until he starts to change, Carolyn takes center stage, dominating and shining, while he fades into the background. People don't remember meeting him.

We can't be certain as to whether Carolyn will be better off or worse past the time of the film.

At the very end -- not speculating about what will or might happen after -- Lester is in some ways better off, since he did turn his life around and was, for a few moments, happy, and in some ways worse off, since he is dead.

Jane is in some ways worse off (her father has been killed), and in some ways better, due to her experiences with Ricky, and her still-continuing relationship with him.

Carolyn is worse off -- she's more miserable than at the start, and she just might have killed Lester herself, had not Fitts done it first.

For the Burnhams, the answer is simple: they are a family. The daughter is still a minor, so of course she will be living with one or both parents. The married couple no longer have much love for one

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