Like Sunset Boulevard, and Memento (sort of – who can tell where that one starts?), and Gandhi, and The English Patient, and Citizen Kane, and, well, you get the idea.
When a movie starts at the end, the audience knows more than the characters in the movie do. So we watch to figure out how the ending comes about, feeling badly for the characters who are heading toward a fate they cannot escape.
Within the first minute, American Beauty reveals a critical piece of information:
Lester (voiceover): 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.
Lester (voiceover): Of course. I don’t know that yet.
While that’s not literally starting at the end – as in showing the very last scene of a protagonist’s life the way Richard Attenborough did with his film Gandhi – it is revealing information that is like dramatic irony. The difference is [Read more →]