The words "look closer" capture everything American Beauty has to say. American Beauty is the story of a man, Lester Burnham, and his personal struggle to rediscover his identity, and as he does this, everything in his world changes. Sam Mendes" interpretation of Lesters" awakening invites us to take a closer look at stereotypical beauty and what we consider as normal.
Behind the "perfect" house with the "perfect" from yard is family struggling to find the meaning behind their existance. By "looking closer" we can see that the Burnham's are not a family. They are three separate individuals with three very different lives. The Burnham's ideal notion of the American dream is expressed through the need for materialism, especially seen through the character Carolyn.
Lester Burnham is like a lot of American men, who start out having certain ideas, about the kind of like they will have, but somewhere along the line, they get squashed down. Something happened to Lester that promotes change. We are sympathetic towards Lester, even thought we do not like or agree with all the things he wants, needs and desires. Lester suddenly realises the lack of honesty in his life, the lack of communication - not being able to say what he actually feels and do what he actually wants. He is struggling with emotions that have long been dormant, but have been reawakened in him, by a girl called Angela. Lester seems to be miserable about what he is missing in his life - intimacy, trust, friendship and love. Lester attempts to recapture his lost prime and this leads to an unexpected friendship with Ricky Fitts.
Ricky Fitts uses his camera as an extension of his body, eyes and heart. By "looking closer" through his camera lens, zooming in, pushing in closer, Ricky can get much deeper and is able to see things that we might miss with our own eyes. Ricky shows Jane that it's okay to be herself and be happy with who she is.