The film also makes great use of conflicting messages of hope and despair, beauty and ugliness, and so on. “American Beauty” is a remarkable achievement in several ways. Despite having somewhat traditional cinematography, the artistic accomplishments of this movie in other aspects of film making and its following critical acclaim (including all of the awards that it won upon its release) led directly to widespread commercial success.
Many aspects of the cinematography of “American Beauty” are somewhat traditional while avoiding cliché – at very least they are very far from experimental in any real way. The film, for instance, follows the rule of thirds nearly dogmatically, always maintaining action along the imaginary lines that would divide the screen vertically and horizontally. It tends to avoid extreme close-ups and distant medium shots while focusing on close ups and long shots, which all conspire to give this film something of a classical Hollywood look.
This traditional Hollywood look that pervades the movie is useful, however, in differentiating the ‘produced’ aspects of the movie which has a generally negative tone, focusing on emotions and ideas such as despair, and ugliness, from other aspects of the film which focus on the polar opposite of these ideas, namely hope and beauty. Hope, one of this films major themes, is consistently connected a certain kind of shot: aerial shots of the suburbia in which the central family of the show lives. These aerial shots, frequently featuring excellent narration by Kevin Spacey, usually focus on the chances of life to expand beyond the mundane and reach into the ethereal. These shots are especially effective because they invoke an otherworldly quality, almost of a being in an afterlife looking down benevolently onto the town. By evoking the afterlife these shots give an underlying feeling of hope