How does the opening of the films establish the values of the American films?


The embacing of flaws in American Beauty

Jane is looking at breast augmentation sites, reflecting her critical and insecure view of herself. This becomes a theme later on in the film when Ricky tells her that beauty isn’t superficial. This is also portrayed through the mise-en-scene as Jane’s clothing is dark and baggy, allowing her to go through life unnoticed, reflecting how she views her self. The cinematography shows Jane’s insecurities of herself as the camera zooms in close to her face.

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The embracing of flaws in American Psycho

Patrick Bateman doesn’t embrace his flaws and the mise-en-scene shows him constantly tries to prevent them through countless face products and masks.  He doesn’t believe that the inner self is important, as he states later in the film “inside doesn’t matter”. Throughout the film he obsesses over business cards and restaurant reservations rather than his inward self. This later proves to have a detrimental effect of his mental health. The cinematography shows may close ups of his face, showing how obsessed with himself he is.

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The embracing of flaws The Graduate

At the beginning of The Graduate Ben feels like he cannot have any flaws as the pressure surmounted onto him by his parents prevents him from being allowed to make mistakes. Later on, after having sex with Mrs. Robinson he relaxes and learns to ignore what they say, as he feels apathetic throughout their relationship. The cinematography shows Ben through the fish tank, as he is lost and isolated, he doesn’t know what to do with his future, but later on in the film he knows he doesn’t want to do what his parents tell him.

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What’s behind closed doors? Amercian Beauty

The Burnham family appears to be happy, but the audience is positioned to know that they are a very dysfunctional family.  We learn this through Lester’s voiceover and also how the cinematography shows the imbalance of power between Lester and Carolyn through the higher angle shots to show Lester appearing insignificant and low angle shots of Carolyn showing her to be more important.

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What's behind closed doors? American Psycho

Bateman’s monologue at the beginning tells the audience how “Patrick Bateman does not really exist”. We learn at the end of the film that Bateman appears to others as a “spineless nerd” however he fantasizes about and/or commits heinous crimes. He is consistently shot through reflections of items, enforcing the “idea of a Patrick Bateman”, and how easily people can mask themselves (figuratively and literally- through the use of face masks but also how he presents himself to others)

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What's behind closed doors? The Graduate

The Braddock family host a party in which they present Ben as a successful, happy man, however it is clear that Ben is not as content as they make him out to be. We also see Mrs. Robinson looking for Ben’s affection, though she is an apparently happily married woman, she seeks the comfort of a younger man as she is not truly in love with her husband.

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American Dream in American Beauty

Carolyn is desperate throughout for the American Dream, living in a ‘white picket fence’ house. Shows how dangerous the false representations of the American Dream are as the obsession with appearing perfect was put before true happiness and the relationship between the Burnham family, creating a drive. In the opening scene we see her up early gardening, showing how she is focused on how the outer world see her rather than her true happiness. Though the connotations of a rose tends to be romantic, they are also known as thorny and fragile. The inside of their bedroom shows a bland room, perhaps mirroring their marriage and family life. The establishing shot of the suburban neighbourhood also shows how they think they're living the American Dream- living in a suburban neighbourhood in a nice house, with a 'normal' nuclear family, however they are a clearly unhappy family, so therefore have not acheieved the American Dream at all. 

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American Dream in American Pyscho

Patrick Bateman and the other business men are constantly worried about whether they has the most recent and stylish material goods, and they want people to think highly of them, comparing apartments, and constantly wanting to flaunt their wealth, despite the detrimental effect it has on Batemans health. Though we see them dining at an expensive restaurant, and Batemans house is nicely furnished, it is clear they are not truly living the American Dream as they ar e constantly looking for other peoples approval.

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American Dream in The Graduate

Mr and Mrs Braddock and their friends are only interested in whether someone is financially or academically successful. Mr Braddock makes a point of showing off how successful he is, “I’m out $200”, and getting Ben the red sports car. A ‘good’ marriage with a nuclear family is seen as respectable, though Mrs Robinson feels the need to have an affair with a younger man, and Ben is deeply unhappy with his life, despite graduating from college. The opening scene shows Ben making meaningless conversation with his parents friends. He has a party of people who are apparently celebrating him, yet he is still unhappy- showing how the materialistic American Dream is impossible to achieve- as despite having a nice house, family and education, he is still unsatisfied.

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