Analysis of Lester Burnham
From the outside, Lester seems to have a perfect salary, and a perfect family who lives in a perfect neighborhood. In reality, things are not what they seem to be. In fact, he is on the verge of getting fired from this job, his wife and only child hate him, and he also hates himself. Slowly a series of crises begin to occur that ensure that eventually the family will be destroyed. It starts off with the deterioration of his relationship with, his daughter Jane, and wife Carolyn. “She wasn’t always like this. She used to be happy. We used to be happy. ”(Cohen, & Mendes, 1999) Everyday is different in his life, but also the same.
He goes to work and comes home only to have dinner with the same music and same people who despise him the most. Not to mention how every dinner ends the same, with personal attacks towards him, only to make him feel worse about himself.
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The worst part is that he knows he is going to do the same tomorrow. As things seem to escalate more and more it is becoming more obvious that he has reached his mid-life crisis. Especially when he meets Angela, his daughters attractive best friend, he thinks he has finally found a new purpose for living. This is when Burnham has reached a critical point in his life.
This film revolves around many ideas and themes. One of these is the value of life. “I have lost something. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn’t always feel this… sedated. But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back. ”(Cohen, & Mendes, 1999) From now on, in the movie, Lester decides to turn his life around. Starting by getting himself out of the depression he is currently in. As the movie goes on, one of the first things you notice while watching the movie is how perfect the houses are aligned and how his whole entire house is furnished with the color gray or light shades of blue.
The only things that do seem to have color are either painted with red or blue. In turn the red signifies the things that make the characters happy and the blue signifies the troubles the characters are facing. How does that person interact with others in the movie? Lester’s interaction with others in the movie was the one significant thing that showed his true colors of his character. He seemed to have a positive outlook on gaining relationships, but most characters in the film wanted nothing to do with him.
They saw him as an impersonal individual with no care in the world, but to fulfill his own desires. On the other hand, all he wanted was to have a happy relationship with his daughter and wife. However, in return they never showed him an ounce of gratitude. Especially his daughter Jane. From the first time I saw them have dinner with the vase of red flowers and perfect family portrait between them, I knew that Jane had repressed anger towards her father. Particularly when Lester tried to conversate with Jane and she clearly expressed that she could care less. “Well, what do you expect?
You can’t all of a sudden be my best friend, just because you had a bad day…I mean, hello. You’ve barely even spoken to me for months. ”(Cohen, & Mendes,1999) At this point in the movie it has become pretty obvious that the main character is not only depressed but he also has a passive aggressive personality disorder. The first psychological behavior shown was depression. Depression is an Axis I disorder under the DSM-IV-TR criteria. Which is also described as by doctors Sharp and Lipsky in 2002 as a “.. common psychiatric disorder in children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly.
Persons who are depressed have feelings of sadness, loneliness, irritability, worthlessness, hopelessness, agitation, and guilt that may be accompanied by an array of physical symptoms. A diagnosis of major depression requires that symptoms be present for two weeks or longer…Targeted screening in high-risk patients such as those with chronic diseases, pain, unexplained symptoms, stressful home environments, or social isolation, and those who are postnatal or elderly may provide an alternative approach to identifying patients with depression”
The main characters loneliness and sense of worthlessness has become more evident when his neurotic wife no longer wants to engage in sexual activities with him. And his fourteen year job as a writer for a media magazine has come to an end. In addition, what seems to throw him over the edge is the lack of communication he has with his daughter. Although she wants nothing to do with him, he still longs for her happiness. A Person who is also depressed shows a sign that life is not worth living for them. The character of Lester Burnham didn’t hesitate to express this within the first minute of the movie.
He narrates “My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This… is my life. I’m forty-two years old. In less than a year, I’ll be dead…Of course, I don’t know that yet…And in a way, I’m dead already. ”(Cohen, & Mendes, 1999) However what ultimately deteriorates Lesters life is his passive aggressive personality disorder. Also found in the Axis II DSM-IV-TR criteria. These are all the things that the character of Lester Burnham embodies on a day to day basis: “People with this disorder resent responsibility and show it through their behaviors, rather than by openly expressing their feelings.
They often use procrastination, inefficiency, and forgetfulness to avoid doing what they need to do or have been told by others to do…A person with this disorder may appear to comply with another’s wishes and may even demonstrate enthusiasm for those wishes. However, they perform the requested action too late to be helpful, perform it in a way that is useless, sabotage the action to show anger that they cannot express in words”(Vorvick, & Rogge, 2008) His evident mid life crisis causes him to irresponsibly buy a red sports car and fall in lust with someone that is the age of his daughter, also known as Angela in the film.
His first encounter with Angela started the red rose petal frenzy. Everytime he interacted with her red rose petals appeared in her significance. The rose petals signified a sense of happiness for Lester and acceptance by the only female in the film. Another symptom for passive aggressive behavior is feeling resentment and hostility. Mr. Burnham clearly displayed his feeling of resentment and hostility in the second dinner scene where him and his wife get into an altercation over how Lester up and quit his job, when he had a clear chance to save it.
But things started going downhill after Lester shouted across the table to his daughter “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”(Cohen, & Mendes, 1999) By this point Carolyn and Lester are screaming to each other, but all Lester seems to want is someone to pass the asparagus. Finally, he becomes feed up with the non-respect he is shown as the man in the household and he gets up himself to get the asparagus.
After serving himself, a minute later he throws the aspargus directly across the wall next to the perfect family portrait, in order to command attention from his ungrateful wife and daughter. Another sign for passive aggressive personality disorder in Lester Burnham is the drug abuse and poor career development. (Something that Lester didn’t hide throughout the film. ) Especially his interest in smoking marijuana, which he ironically receives from his neighbor and also his daughters boyfriend, Ricky Fitts. By this time, the main character Lester, has shown how withdrawn he actually is from the world and how irresponsible he has become.