By Marcel Müller
Lester Burnham: suburbanist, employee at a magazine publisher and married to the estate agent Carolyn, with whom he has a pubescent daughter named Jennifer. He is the owner of a small house with a garage next to it and seems to embody the small-town American ideal.
If you take a closer look behind this facade, however, a crumbling construct opens up.
In this film based on the novel by Steven Spielberg, Lester Burnham narrates post mortem how he will die within the next year. His day begins with a morning masturbation in the cabin because his sex life with his career-oriented wife has completely fallen asleep. The bond with his daughter is characterized by distance, evening meal rituals are characterized by an unpleasant and oppressive silence. His work is full of existential pressure to perform, for which he receives no gratitude from his family or colleagues. But this invisible cage is broken open after he meets his daughter’s 17-year-old schoolmate and after Ricky Fitts, drug dealer and son of a naval officer, moves into the neighborhood.
The question of whether to lead a self-determined life according to our own desires and ideas, or whether to adopt the ideal social construct demanded by society plagues many human beings within liberal Western culture. Consumer goods become status symbols and civic values are regarded as guiding principles. Deviations from convention in the area of love and lifestyle are always in conflict with the expectations of others. Invisible bonds that everyone carries around, but not everyone manages to break out of. After all, thinking about being and wanting is unpleasant, conforming is simple and uncomplicated.
In this sense, American Beauty is not a guideline for breaking out of this self-inflicted cycle, but brings the destructive facets of an unreflected and disenfranchised life to the screen as a captivating drama. The actors give an excellent performance, I was captivated by every statement that escaped the lips of all the participants involved. And when a picture of a garbage bag swirling in the wind suddenly becomes a symbol for the beauty of existence, the viewer can be sure of having found a small movie gem.
I recommend this film especially to an adult audience who have already subordinated themselves within bourgeois society and want to embark on a profound journey of self-reflection.