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How does Sam Mendes portray the character Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty?

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Introduction

How does Sam Mendes portray the character of Carolyn Burnham? American Beauty is a film that delves into your typical, middle-class suburban home and slowly uncovers all of the abnormalities that lie within. The family is portrayed as normal, but as the films tag line suggests "look closer." It is possible to fully understand the implications that take place in this seemingly happy home. The film is directed by director Sam Mendes and was released in 1999. Sam Mendes has created a character which I shall base this essay on, whom is played by Annette Bening. Carolyn Burnham is the materialistic, ambitious, insecure, seemingly successful, lonely wife of Lester Burnham. She has very little to do with her husband, Lester, and even less to do with her daughter, Jane. Carolyn is a very insecure character, which is apparent in her behaviour observed in different situations. One of these situations is a scene which she tries to sell a house and becomes more and more desperate. The Burnham's seem to have the 'American Dream': good jobs, two cars and a nice home in the suburbs and children but if you do as the slogan says and 'look closer' you may see that appearances are deceiving and that materialism is all empty promises. ...read more.

Middle

Lester and Carolyn do not have a healthy or active relationship, which also makes their relationship with their daughter worse, yet this is all covered up to others by Carolyn's exceeding talent of appearances. Frustrated by her lack of a relationship with her husband, Carolyn makes a choice to have an affair with her real estate business rival Buddy Kanes. The affair doesn't amount to much; just decreases Carolyn's tolerance. But also it shows that Carolyn 'wears the pants' in the family, controlling everything down to the music they listen to eat dinner. One scene in American beauty shows a key insight into the character of Caroline and her any different persona's. Carolyn is cleaning a dirty house inwhich she tells the viewers reppitedly that she 'will' sell. The choice of words here shows her positivity which is matched with the light opening of the scene and the playful lingering music. Undressing into a red slip and laying out her things she starts to thoroughly clean. By this time, Carolyn has already shown us the edge of doubt by the camera shot of the opposite side of the street towards a competitor estate agent. As previously established, Carolyn Burnham likes her appearance even within her own home. ...read more.

Conclusion

This may be why she is cleaning the house, other than getting a company to do it for her. I'm assuming that Carolyn and Lester married and had Jane, yet Carolyn focused on her career and started to leave her family behind, her characteristics make a good business woman, yet not a good balanced wife and mother either. A mother that focuses too much on their career inevitably affects their family for the worse, Carolyn Burnham does this and blames it on material things. Trying to make up for it buy earning money and pretending there is nothing wrong with her family. This may be the reason why Carolyn Burnham had the affair with Buddy Kane, as he affects her career inwhich she strives to improve more and more. Buddy Kane also may give her a feel of understanding or reassurance, 'Buddy Kane: In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times.' I feel this quotes links directly back to Carolyn Burnham, as it seems to fit perfectly with her persona's actions and beliefs - Sam Mendes portrays all of this by the cleverly constructed camera angles, as if we are a person looking over her, especially in the key scene. ...read more.

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