"Janie's a pretty typical teenager- angry, insecure, confused." -American Beauty.
American Beauty tells the story of a depressed suburban office worker who undergoes a mid-life crisis, resulting in him becoming infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best
friend. The actress, Thora Birch plays his teenage daughter, Jane Burnham. Described by her father as being a “typical teenager”, the audience sympathises with Jane and the peer pressure she has to withstand. Jane’s main source of peer pressure comes in the form of her attractive best friend called Angela Hayes. Hiding behind her own fears of being ‘ordinary’, Angela often puts Jane down by inventing several sexual encounters she has had, causing Jane to feel jealous of her beauty and sex appeal to men.
In addition to this, Jane Burnham is also somewhat controlled by her obsessive uptight mother, Carolyn. Often making commenting on her she thinks her daughter is purposely “trying to look unattractive”, Jane suffers from low self-esteem. However, Jane manages to break away from her suffocating mother, by running away with the neighbour’s son, Ricky
Fitts. When Jane first encounters Ricky, she is unsure about her mysterious neighbours antics, as she often sees him videoing her. Nevertheless, Jane and Ricky fall in love after they bond over Ricky’s video recording. Most notably, his favourite footage of a plastic bag, which he considers to be his most beautiful work.
With regards to my favourite moment in American Beauty, I would have to say that it is the close up of Jane’s reflection in a mirror after Ricky firsts tries to get her attention by spelling out her name in lighter fuel outside of her window. Besides the beautiful cinematography of this shot, I find the intimate close-up of her smile to be very endearing as we see that Jane is very touched by Ricky’s noticing her. Also the scene in which she stands up to her best friend Angela for calling her new boyfriend a ‘freak’, declaring “Then so am I!”, is very inspiring as she shows she is unafraid to stand up for what she believes is fair.