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How Important is Characterisation in ‘American Beauty’? How Does the Director Achieve This?
Characterisation is extremely important in the film ‘American Beauty’, especially in the case of the main character, Lester, played by Kevin Spacey. Director, Sam Mendes, carefully chose actors that had the ability to possess themselves with the characters, and bring them to life as seemingly everyday people. Each character in this film has been written to be unique and complex, with more than meets the eye.
In the movie American Beauty, it is evident that Lester Burnham is in a state of despair. Lester’s dull and monotonous voice introduces the audience to his daily routine of life. When Lester declares plain and simply, “jerking off in the shower will be the high point of my day,” he exposes the lifelessness to which he has become accustomed. He realizes his family life is no better when he becomes aware that both his wife and daughter consider him “a gigantic loser.” It is easy to recognize and understand Lester’s disheartenment through analysis of the symbolic car scene. In this scene, Lester sits slouched down in the back seat half asleep, while his daughter Jane sits up front, next to his wife Caroline who is driving the car, the positions of power. Sitting in the backseat, Lester avoids further conflict with his wife and daughter, it’s as if he almost ‘snoozes through his life’. It is understandable why Lester feels like a sedated visitor in his own life as he states he is “in many ways already dead.”
For Lester, his life at work is nothing better than his life at home. After fourteen years on the job, Lester is asked to write a memo justifying his position. Lester believes himself to be considered by others as an “expendable employee”, having a job that was not required by the company therefore wasting the company’s money. Suddenly, his job became meaningless to him. Lester concluded he could...
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