15 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: Movie: American Beuty

Many of the characters in the film exhibit symptoms of severely low self-esteem. At the end of the film, many of these characters have begun to recoverĀ  to like themselves and their lives. But two principal characters are quite the contrary. Lester and the colonel are two very specific cases and are quite different to the rest of the characters.

ells the story of Lester Brunham, an ordinary American man who finds a way to free himself from his mundane, loveless existence. For one year, Lester lives the opposite of the traditional American Dream: he quits his job, blackmails his boss, gets a job working at a fast-food restaurant, and spends his time smoking pot with the teenage dealer next door and lifting weights in his garage. While this transformation could be dismissed as a run-of-the-mill mid-life crisis, actually Lester is getting his self esteem back. Many would describe his behavior as infantile but a regression doesn’t have to necessarily mean that one is infantile or that he or she has a disorder. It is a defense mechanism against dissatisfaction in life and it helps Lester cope with what his life has become. One of the most surrealistic scenes in the movie is when Lester actually sees his wife with another man. Lester’s deeply repressed wife, Carolyn, is having an affair with a local real-estate giant and when he hears them cuddling and giggling through the microphone of the drive in where he works he just continues to behave as a waiter and pays no attention to his wife’s attempts to explain thing. On the other hand had the “before” Lester found put that his wife is having an affair, he would most probably have a fit of rage since that used to be one of few things that would break the monotony of old Lester’s life. Actually the entire movie revolves around Lester’s rejuvenation and re discovery of life, with his radical moves he has regained the force and the adrenaline of youth. His rejuvenation and self esteem grow to such a point where he seriously contemplates seducing a girl that is the age of his daughter.

But that is only the first layer that one gets out of the movie. Even if Lester does have fantasies about the moment of sleeping with his daughter’s friend he does not want to take her virginity, because even if he seems to have been rejuvenated Lester is still a mature and grown person who is merely getting back in touch with the things is life that used to make him happy. He smokes pot, he works out, he gets a crappy job, and he starts living life again, trying to make up for all the time he has lost being a corporate hooker (as he puts it). He tries to get his wife and daughter back, and to start relationships with them anew but he fails miserably, so he pursues happiness as best as he can. Making friends with a strange kid he met one night, who turns out to be his neighbour, and his drug dealer, as well as his daughters boyfriend. Lester is the ideal person for the male menopause anti-hero. He pisses everyone off, he black mails his boss, he spits on the pretend family illusion that many families have, he does things his own way, because he fells he has lost everything. He even gets his car, the car he always wanted, the whole point being that one day Lester decides that he has had enough nuisance, from everyone, and that he will live life the way he should, and he lets no one stand in his way.

The paradox of the entire movie is that Lester dies as soon as he rediscovers life. It is almost as the director is sending us a message that it is dangerous to enjoy life or at least that alternative ways of life might get you killed, even by accident. Had Lester not smoked pot, the colonel’s son wouldn’t roll his joints and than the colonel wouldn’t think they were having oral sex and consequently the colonel wouldn’t try to kiss Lester and wouldn’t kill lester in order to keep his secret. Interestingly enough throughout the movie only the colonel seems confident of himself and presents himself as somebody who is in absolute control in his fascist military manner. Ironically enough as repressed homosexual he is the one who turns out to have the least self confidenceĀ  and self esteem, we may therefore conclude that the gay hating colonel hates himself and that Lester died in his prime living the life of a teenager and without actually ever finding real love since the love of his wife never really existed or died long ago.

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