American Beauty Vs The Bicycle Thief Essay

American Beauty Vs. The Bicycle Thief Essay, Research Paper

Roxane Simenson

Intro. to Film

Jim Mcgonigle

Film Analysis

American Beauty vs. The Bicycle Thief

In American Beauty Kevin Spacey who plays Lester lives a typical middle class life

with his family. His wife is having an affair, his rebellious daughter doesn?t talk to him and

his neighbors are psycho. In contrast The Bicycle Thief portrays a tight family. Riccis wife

loves him, his behaved son talks to him and his neighbors are helpful when a crises occurs.

In both of these films the main characters, Lester and Ricci, go through what I call a

responsibility stage. Both must make a life changing experience, either good or bad, that

will have an effect on the people around them.

Lester decides to make a few changes in his rut of life, changes that are less

mid-life and more adolescence like.1 While he slowly goes through these changes on film

one can see that the more responsibility he gives up the more happy he becomes. What he

gives up to make him happy, though, only makes his family more hateful towards him. It

isn?t that he gave up his responsibilities to improve his relationship with his daughter or

improve it with his wife but to be selfish and gratify himself from what he lost when he

was young. He does reckless and foolish things in this movie, but he doesn?t deceive

himself, he knows he?s running wild–and choose to..2 He let these feelings over power

him and he almost let this irresponsibility get the best of him when he found himself alone

with his daughters best friend. It?s perfectly natural to have feelings like he has toward her

but there came a time with him when he saw what he was going to do was not right. So

he refrained and actually gained a friend. (After he has been losing people left and right)

His ability to refrain from his actions made him a stronger person in the eyes of Angela, his

daughters best friend.

Unlike Lester, Riccio, from The Bicycle Thief , does not have a job. His main

concern, like that of an adolescent who needs money, is to get a job. His responsibility is

towards his family. He is in a constant state of depression because nothing ever goes his

way. His family is supportive unlike Lesters. But his desire for responsibility is driven by

class and economic need.3 So his desire to get the bike back that was stolen from him

turns into a family and friend hunt. His son Bruno is with him through the entire search.

Finally Ricci decides he has had enough of looking for the bike and says to his son, ? You

live you suffer, to hell with it. You want a pizza?? This kind of attitude made me think that

he was over being mad at the person who stole it and they might as well just make the best

of what was left of the day with each other. But when they are eating he notices what the

other people are eating. He said to his son who also noticed that, ?You need a million yire

to eat like that.? Which sparked back up in him the hateful feelings toward the person who

stole his bike. Instead of being the better person, like Lester was with Angela, Ricci lets

his anguish get the best of him and steals someone else?s bike. He let down his moral

obligation towards his son when he decided to do this. His son realized this and kept

asking him, ?Why daddy?? Unlike Lester, Ricci did not gain any respect, he lost the

respect of everyone and his irresponsibility made him weak in the eyes of his son.

Both Lester and Ricci live in a world were they are constantly being judge by

society and people close to them. In The Bicycle Thief Ricci and his son are a church with

the homeless of Rome. Although they are middle class their rugged clothes make them

look like they are homeless and need food and that is how the people around them treat

them. They say to Ricci and his son, ?soup will be served after the sermon please sit down

until then.? In American Beauty Lester is at a cheesy Realtors conference with his wife,

who looks down on him because he is not up to her standards of being successful. She

tells him to act a certain way because a top Realtor was going to be there and she would

like to impress him because this Realtor is her standard of success. Both Lester and Ricci

scam their way to get what they needed. Ricci lied and said he had a bike when he really

didn?t at that moment. It was at the pawn shop. Lester blackmailed his boss for a years

salary. Then he told his family what he did. What makes both of these incidences special

is that in a time of crises one family, Riccis, pulled through to help him. While Lesters sat

back and mocked him and did nothing to help him out of his rut.

To sum it all up Ricci throughout his search ?encounters indifference to humanity

and incivility of others.?4 Ricci fights within himself to be the better person but only ends

up in internal conflict with himself. He loses his respect for himself and we are astonished

by his indecency toward other people of Riccis same impoverished disposition. On the

other hand American Beauty dabbles with the question how uncivil and inhuman can

someone lower themselves to over a short period of time. But Lester proves us wrong.

His obsession with Angela in the end turns into an act of humanism and civility towards

someone who is naive. Both of these main characters traits, at some point in everyone?s

life, have delivered or even taught a lesson about refraining from some sort of action that

could end up in consequences that are defiant against ones own code of conduct or

someone else?s.


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