Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

In the comedy-drama 'American Beauty' (1999), director Sam Mendes reveals the true  colors beneath living the historically idolized lifestyle of the 'American  dream'. 

Starring Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham, the husband and father of a white picket fenced Conservative family who undergoes a midlife crisis, realizing his power to take control of his life.

Lester starts to revert back to his youth, forms a sexual fantasy around his daughter's best friend, trades in his functional suburban car for his dream sports car, starts smoking weed again and rebels against every facade aspect in his life, including his controlling and overly conservative wife.

The symbolism in 'American Beauty' exhibits countless categorizations humans subconsciously create or succumb to in order to make sense of their idolized reality.

Mendes focuses upon the definitions of beauty, power and love and the relationship amongst the three. The use of red roses in Lester's fantasies signify the alluring power that fantasies have to become one's reality.

American Beauty is a film of many stories within a story. The characters' individual narratives slowly connect to one overall message throughout the film. Each character deals with resistance towards fitting into a certain societal category that is expected upon in living the American dream. 

We are forced to question our ideals of teen beauty, rebellion, sexual identity, money, murder, gender role performance. Beneath the darkness of identity crises shown in the characters' lives is an underlying reminder that beauty is to be found right next to you when you simply start to notice it and people may not truly be what they portray themselves to be on the outside.

 

 

American Beauty
director SAM MENDES
year 1999
director of photography CONRAD HALL
cast KEVIN SPACEY, MENA SUVARI, THORA BIRCH, ANNETTE BENING and WES BENTLEY

 

words ELLEN GRACE

 

Jannis Kounellis

Jannis Kounellis

Alice Moitié

Alice Moitié