americanbeauty - Luke Vinze English 1023 Comp 2 Ms Kelly...

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Luke Vinze English 1023: Comp 2 Ms. Kelly Tate Paper # 4 Drama May 3 rd , 2006 Happiness in a Bag When boiled down to the bare theme, both American Beauty (directed by Sam Mendes) and In America (directed by Jim Sheridan) are about the pursuit of happiness. Both movies are based around a central character that is trying to live the American dream and live contently. Lester and Johnny start out in a state of grim depression from their pursuit of the ideological American dream. In Lester’s case, he is caught up by the materialism obsession that is driven by the notion that the acquisition of wealth and material belongings is happiness, a lifestyle which is all too common today. On the other hand, Johnny came to America seeking a new career, to escape the memory of his fallen son, and to start anew with the goal of living better than before. They realize that living happily is more than just the superficial goal of pursuing the lifestyles that everyone has come to expect from them. Afterwards, they start to come to enjoy life as it is offered. This journey is not easy though. The transformation in their process of thought about life takes a toll on their families and their surroundings. Through interactions with their family and neighbors they truly discover that happiness lies in being content with what they already have in front of them. In the beginning, both Lester and Johnny are both living in a state of depression. Understanding the characters’ starting morale is crucial in understanding the changes that they go through. Lester starts out as a burnt-out suburbanite dad. With his current lifestyle, he has slipped into a state of complete depression. He says, “In a way, I am dead already.” (American Beauty.) His wife is so caught up in her struggling career that she won’t have sex with him, his
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daughter hates him, and his career is in shambles. He describes the highlight of his day as masturbating in the shower in the morning: “It’s all downhill from there.” (American Beauty.) He got caught in his situation by pursing his “American dream.” By pursuing that dream of having the nice house, in the nice neighborhood, with a nice car, and lots of stuff, he was forced to work at a job that he hates. “My job consists of basically masking my contempt for the assholes in charge, and, at least once a day, retiring to the men's room so I can jerk off while I fantasize about a life that doesn't so closely resemble Hell." (American Beauty.) Without his job though, he couldn’t maintain his fantastic lifestyle. Johnny, on the other hand, is just moving to America in hopes of turning his life around.
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americanbeauty - Luke Vinze English 1023 Comp 2 Ms Kelly...

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