The continual struggle of Lester Burnham regarding the meaning of life eventually endows him with the freedom to assume total responsibility for his life, thereby taking the onus to give a meaning to his life, which though did not affiliate to any organized and systematic philosophical discipline is of immense importance and concern, so far as the life of Lester Burnham is concerned. Hence, eventually in the climax, Lester Burnham arrives at a meaningful conclusion that corroborates the essential existential theme that any valid philosophical quest ought to stand on a foundation comprising of the actual experiences of an individual. The eventual demise of Lester Burnham is not only satisfactory and well deserved in the context of his individual struggle, but is also indicative of the possibility of soliciting happiness by proactively engaging in an existential crisis. The existential themes inherent in the movie American Beauty could only be grasped by having a relevant insight into the actual plot and contexts. The central character in the movie that is Lester Burnham is shown to be up against a midlife existential crisis. In the movie Lester Burnham is shown to be a middle aged American male who is both a husband and a father. Lester is shown to be trapped in a marriage that is of no relevant meaning or interest to him. He happens to be the father of a daughter who actually seems to hate him. Lester is also shown to be trapped in a job that not only devoid of any motivation or interest, but also happens to be morally and ethically debasing and from which Lester Burnham intends to escape for the sake of personal peace and well being. It is only after Lester Burnham gets attracted to her daughter’s young and beautiful friend that he begins to assume responsibility for his life, thereby getting actively engaged in asking questions and making decisions that lead to his eventual sad but personally edifying death. In that context, the movie American Beauty facilitates a deep insight into the actual motivations behind the so called modern life and the commensurate human struggle to seek meaning and personal contentment. The movie presents to the viewers the varied existential themes marking the contemporary life through the existential struggle of the central character Lester Burnham, at the same time shedding light on the vacuity and inanity of the individuals and organizations surrounding Lester Burnham. The plot of the movie thereby serves two purposes, one to unravel the absurdity and ludicrousness hidden behind the conformist notions of life, and second the possibility of seeking happiness and fulfillment in the small things marking the human existence. One existential theme that continually pops up while being engaged in the unraveling of the seemingly banal and mundane life of Lester Burnham is that of authenticity. In a quest for personal meaning and goal, the existential struggle engaged into by the central character that is Lester Burnham, the character is shown to be living Sartre’s notion of authenticity, thereby practically symbolizing the fact that “authenticity implies the assumption of one’s moral responsibility, the recognition that one has to decide what is good (Schilpp 96).”Through his existential struggle, Lester Burnham actually establishes that authenticity is possible that even while being numbly engaged in an existential struggle, there does is a personal unity of consciousness, a personal capacity to be a proactive
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Name of the Student Philosophy Name of the Concerned Professor 13 October 2012 American Beauty and Existentialism There is no denying the fact that American Beauty is indeed an existential film imbued with varied existential themes in an intricate and complex way…
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The rest of the actors include Annette Bening as Carolyn Burnham, Thora Birch as Jane Burnham, Mena Suvari as Angela Hayes, Chris Cooper as Frank Fitts and Was Bentley as Ricky Fitts. This film revolves around the character of Lester, who is a middle aged family man living with his wife and daughter, Carolyn and Jane, in a suburb (Spacey, Bening and Birch).
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