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: American Beauty - Movie Review Example

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: American Beauty

This rose-colored view of the world keeps us from engaging the real issues in our lives. Higgins asks us to move out of our comfort zone and into reality, knowing that when we begin to approach reality versus the fantasy of wishful thinking, that is when we do the true work of theology and draw closer to God. Each of Higgins chapters addresses the overarching themes of humanity, and in turn, allow us to engage in critical thinking and evaluation of our response to pain and suffering in the world. Darkness and trauma and pain are the story of so much of our world, states Higgins (38). As Christians, we sometimes have to embrace the pain to examine the learning that is necessary for our breakthrough to understanding. Higgins posits that, “there are times when the only thing we should do is swallow our sense of self-protection and allow ourselves to be upset (38). Empathy with our subject (in this case, American Beauty character Lester) opens our minds and hearts to suffering, death, and discomfort. By being uncomfortable, we are sometimes moved to do something about the issue that has shaken our complacency. In American Beauty, filmmaker and director Sam Mendes creates a story of brokenness and despair. In each of the three characters, we are given images of people that are striving to break out of their personal prisons, imprisoned in life because they have become stagnant and in a rut of performing the same rituals every day. Lester and the other characters want to break out of their self-imposed imprisoned life of hum-drum monotony. They each attempt to do so by changing their circumstance of routine and doldrums to one of a dynamic, satisfying encounter with life. In their bland vanilla-flavored normal life, everything is the same. Each person has the same routines, the same actions, the same expected results. However, when the characters are prodded to move out of the mundane into the challenging world, life is now full of uncertainty and excitement. Higgins equates this with our encounters with God (40). The intervention of God into our world of complacency can be the impetus that shakes us from the mundane into the electrifying world of reality and uncertainty. As we encounter the trauma of our world, God allows us to increase our faith and strengthen our endurance through a dynamic relationship with God as the director of our faith. If we examine our lives as closely as we have these characters in American Beauty, we will see the expanses of monotony and the pervasiveness of stagnation within the lives of Lester, Caroline and Jane, Wes and Angela, etc., reflected in our lives with God. Higgins challenges us to make the characters in the movie “me and you and all of us” (40). Higgins says that in order to face the challenges of our world, we have to embrace relationships that show us how to relate and communicate with one another. Most of our challenges, according to Higgins,“could have been better met if people knew how to live in community together, to love one another, and to not be afraid of vulnerability” (90). American Beauty character Lester is so afraid of his own vulnerability that he has lobotomized his feelings and tucked them away in the security of boredom. When he opens the door to a different life by quitting his job and smoking pot with his friend, he is overcome by self-examination of how life could have been. The saddest part of the film is the knowledge from the beginning that Lester is in his last year. No matter what changes he makes, he will only have one year to enjoy them and the resulting lifestyle. When we reflect on the lessons in American Beauty, I am mostly struck by the question of death and knowing. If we know the ...Show more

Summary

In his work, How Movies Helped Save My Soul, Higgins challenged us to examine a movie or film for underlying issues that are eating at our subconscious, and sometimes even conscious, psyche…
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