‘American Beauty’ is a film that demonstrates the outcomes and consequences of those who try to attain the American dream. What one doesn’t expect is that as people try to achieve this dream, it is often that they get lost in life. The meaning of the American dream can mean various things to people. However, for the most part, it means to have freedom, to live a stable, noble and financial life. It is shown in the film, ‘American Beauty’ the main character, Lester Burnham a man who is becoming more depressed and is also disliked by his sixteen year old daughter; overlooked by his significant other and pointless at work in light of the fact that their life is so everyday and devoured by the American dream. Throughout the film, symbolism and the Three-Act Structure is quite visible.
Act 1: Setup, Act 2: Confrontation, and Act 3: Resolution. In the film “American Beauty” Act 1 is demonstrated when the main characters Lester, Carolyn, and Jane Burnham are introduced. The viewers establish the dramatic circumstances around them; Lester is bored, Carolyn wants power and prosperity, and Jane wants attention.
Act 2 is when the protagonists try to recognize and find a solution for. It is Lester who goes against the American dream norms and wishes to feel alive and youthful again when he starts fantasizing about his teenage daughter’s friend, Angela. He also stands up against his wife when he sees her with another man and responds to her by saying “No, no. You… don’t get to tell me what to do ever again.” and starts to feel a sense of control in his life. On the other hand, Carolyn who fantasizes about success, begins coming closer to Buddy Kane, the more successful real estate. While Lester and Carolyn focus on their “truest desires”, Jane is seen trying to find more comfort and acceptance in Ricky.
For Act 3, the main characters are trying to end all matters that may make them feel that they won’t receive what they truly desire. After quitting his boring job and blackmailing his company for a year’s salary with benefits, getting a job at a burger place, getting in shape, and standing up to his wife, Lester believes his greatest desire is to have sex with Angela and establish a new life. Carolyn becomes obsessed with Buddy Kane when her interactions with him at lunch, party event, etc. She starts becoming infatuated with the way Kane spoke about his desires and career because in reality, it was what Carolyn desired for herself. Jane saw her solution to her desire in Ricky, when he gave her chance to run away with him to New York. This film is a narrative of Lester’s realization to the cage of society and the American dream norms that he is seen fighting against and lacking to runaway from.
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