“There are so many different types of love. There is little kid love, teenage love, friendship love, family love, marriage love and parent to children love. All of these different types of love have similar meanings but have a little something different making them unique. ” (Bartinelli). This statement is the perfect way to explain love. Even though “love” is a universal word that millions of people use to describe their strong feelings for another person, the interpretation of the word is unique to each individual.
There are no set rules or requirements that dictate to a person how they must feel or act in order to use the word love. No relationship is ever completely the same as another, and every couple is different, yet they all use the same word to describe their feelings: love. A more specific example is the relationship between Lester and Carolyn Burnham in the film American Beauty. Lester and Carolyn possessed negative qualities that led to several conflicts with each other and, eventually, overshadowed the positive aspects that kept their love alive.
A relationship is between two people, each with their own characteristics that can be either loved or loathed by the other person. In the case of Lester and Carolyn’s relationship, each possesses a few negative characteristics that end up being the couple’s downfall in the movie. One trait in specific would be Carolyn’s constant focus on surface appearances. It becomes apparent to the audience that Carolyn tries to hide her imperfect lifestyle by manipulating the appearances around her to look perfect, which ends up affecting her and Lester’s relationship.
Carolyn is aware that Lester is truly unhappy with his job, but she couldn’t really care less about Lester’s feelings. The only thing she is concerned with is maintaining her unnatural lifestyle that she considers perfect. Of course, Carolyn’s perception of a perfect lifestyle does not include having a husband that is unemployed, so when Lester quits his job she begins to secretly despise him for ruining her perfect image. Lester continues shattering her perfect facade when he gets a job at a fast-food restaurant and buys a 1970 Pontiac Firebird: a car Lester claims he has always wanted.
This perceived immaturity and irresponsibility makes Carolyn resent Lester more and more, increasing the tension in the house. Lastly, Carolyn proves her obsession for perfection when Lester was on the couch kissing her neck, and she replies with “you are going to spill beer on the couch” killing the mood. Lester becomes angry by Carolyn’s reaction and screams at her. He exclaims, “It’s just a couch! ” trying to make a point that material goods aren’t as important as life.
The two both come to a realization that their priorities are completely different and that their relationship is being torn apart as a result. Another negative aspect of Lester and Carolyn’s relationship that causes tension between them is their lack of communication. It is obvious that Lester and Carolyn are truly miserable with their lives, but they try to hide it from everyone and pretend to be happy. The movie emphasizes the fact that Lester and Carolyn rarely talk, or even do anything together.
The only time the whole family is at the same place is at the dinner table, and when they do talk to each other there it is a forced conversation that they pretend to be focused on. On the rare occasion that Lester and Carolyn do talk, they usually end up in a fight. As aforementioned, the scene where Lester and Carolyn are alone at home is a great example of this. In this scene in American Beauty, Lester tries to express his feelings with Carolyn and asks when she “became so joyless”, to which she replies, “Joyless? I’m not joyless. There happens to be a lot about me that you don’t know, Mr.
Smarty Man. There’s plenty of joy in my life. ” and leaves their conversation with that. Lester then tries to make a move on Carolyn, but his attempt miserably fails when Carolyn’s concern for material goods ends the scene. Another example of the couple’s reserved emotions is the scene where the audiencefirst meets Buddy Kane. As Lester and Carolyn enter the business party, Lester complains about being there and Carolyn claims he is there to “support” her. However, when Lester kisses Carolyn in front of Buddy, Carolyn becomes irritated.
Apparently Lester was supposed to support her without touching: a form of love. Lester and Carolyn’s lack of communication also leads to both of their affairs. Although Lester realizes his relationship with his wife is slowly deteriorating, he fantasizes about his daughter’s best friend Angela rather than trying to fix the situation. However, it can be interpreted that Lester’s vivid fantasies about Angela are not entirely about her. Instead, the fantasies can be a symbol of the love and sexual feelings Lester has been repressing for so long.
Nevertheless, Carolyn’s affair with Buddy Kane is exactly what it is portrayed as in the movie. She is not looking for affection from someone; instead she is so infatuated with Buddy and his appearance of perfection that she has sex with him to be part of that “perfection”. Lastly, the scene that is probably the most hard-hitting reality of their destroyed relationship comes during dinner time. The scene begins with Lester and Carolyn sitting at the dinner table, as Jane walks in late, and continues with the following dialogue:
Carolyn Burnham: Your father and I were just discussing his day at work. Why don’t you tell our daughter about it, honey? Lester Burnham: Janie, today I quit my job. And then I told my boss to go fuck himself, and then I blackmailed him for almost sixty thousand dollars. Pass the asparagus. Carolyn Burnham: Your father seems to think this type of behavior is something to be proud of. Lester Burnham: And your mother seems to prefer I go through life like a fucking prisoner while she keeps my dick in a mason jar under the sink.
Carolyn Burnham: How dare you speak to me that way in front of her. And I marvel that you can be so contemptuous of me, on the same day that you LOSE your job. Lester Burnham: Lose it? I didn’t lose it. It’s not like, “Whoops! Where’d my job go? ” I QUIT. Someone pass me the asparagus. During this whole conversation Carolyn and Lester kept a happy tone in contrast of their rude remarks. Therefore, the lack of emotion or feelings shown between Lester and Carolyn ultimately became their downfall in the relationship.
Although there were negative aspects that caused things to go wrong for Lester and Carolyn, there were also positive aspects that seemed to get pushed aside. One of the most important positive features of Lester and Carolyn’s relationship is Lester’s character change. It might be thought that Lester and Carolyn’s relationship was slowly destroyed because Lester’s dramatic change throughout the movie; However, his transformation eventually changed Carolyn’s perspective, as well as his own, of their lifestyle and relationship.
Lester begins to show this change when he starts to become more honest with himself and others around him. Although, Lester’s newfound honesty is the cause of him and Carolyn’s arguments, it is actually the foreshadowing of their potential reunion of love. Lester constantly tries to make Carolyn realize the truth of what she has become, but she refuses to acknowledge his opinion. The “new Lester” does not care if he hurts Carolyn with the truth not because he despises her, but simply because he is not doing anything but being absolutely honest with himself and his actions.
For example, when Carolyn says to Lester “Well, I see you’re smoking pot now. I think using psychotropic drugs is a very positive example to set for our daughter,” Lester replies with “you’re one to talk, you bloodless, money-grubbing freak. ” Although this is a very brutal statement, it is true and simply proves the point he is trying to make Carolyn realize. The audience does not entirely realize Lester’s change was actually positive for their relationship until the last few scenes of American Beauty. When Lester is killed, Carolyn’s reaction is not anticipated by the audience.
She begins sobbing and clutches onto Lester’s shirts in his closet. This ending immediately introduces the question “what if? ” The exposure of Carolyn’s true feelings for her dead husband makes the audience wonder what the rest of Lester and Carolyn’s life could have been like if he was not murdered. It can be argued that Lester and Carolyn were not in love, but just together for the image of love. On the other hand, the movie provides a large amount of evidence to prove they actually did love each other, in their own way.
The camera repeatedly focuses on happy pictures of the Burnham family throughout the movie to remind the audience that Lester and Carolyn’s marriage was not always so miserable. When Lester reminds Carolyn of the crazy girl she used to be it makes the audience believe that Carolyn was not always uptight and selfish like she is now. It is relieving to hear this because it gives the audience a sense that there is hope Carolyn can change. Lester and Carolyn both reveal their true compassion for each other when it is too late, but it also, again, poses the question about what might have been.
If Lester was not murdered in the end, would both Lester and Carolyn’s lifestyle have changed for the better? Evidence points to yes, as before Lester dies he frees himself, from his fantasies and his hated life. He recognizes that his new freedom does not mean he must give into every desire, but rather that this freedom consists of being able to balance the love for him and the love for others. This revelation to the audience makes it obvious he is ready to have the old responsibilities he gave up before, but this time he is willing to act as an adult. Although Lester’s new dulthood was short-lived, it was still obvious that he was truly going to make a change in his life. This is evident when Lester asks Angela how Jane is, truly caring about Jane. After viewing this part it can be easily stated that Lester and Carolyn would most likely have worked out if Lester was not murdered. The love between Lester and Carolyn was, like all love, flawed. , but it was undeniably present. Their love story ended too soon for them to rekindle what was once there, but just in time to help them realize that love is never something to be taken for granted.