Three good ones
As a German native student of American Studies, the myth of the „American Dream“ has always been quite fascinating to me. The „pursuit of happiness“, „from rags to riches“ and other phrases come into my mind when I think about that subject. In class, we have discussed some novels dealing with the American Dream, such as „The Tortilla Curtain“ by T. C. Boyle or „Away“ by Amy Bloom, which were quite enlightening.
Besides, the myth of the „American Dream“ is also reflected in many movies, and today, I want to present my favorite three of them.
The first one is „Far & Away“ (1992), directed by Ron Howard. It tells the story of two Irish immigrants who come to the US at the end of the 1880s: The destitute farmer's son Joseph (Tom Cruise) is strong-willed to get some land of his own, which he won't ever if he stays in Ireland due to the rigid class system. His landlord's spoilt, but impassionate daughter Shannon (Nicole Kidman) wants to break free from the fate of being married to her father's sleazy and brutal trustee. Together, they manage to escape. When they eventually make it to Boston, they have to learn that America isn't the country of milk and honey they imagined, but that it is a very tough business there to survive.
I like this movie, as it gives interesting insights into the life and struggles of Irish immigrants at the end of the 19th century, and also takes class- and gender issues into consideration. There are also great pictures of the legendary Oklahoma Land Run, which was a central event in the history of anglo-saxon settlers subdueing the „Wild West“.
Besides, it has a charming lovestory with pre-Scientology-Tom Cruise and his former wife, Nicole Kidman, who then stood just at the beginning of her later impressive career. As curly red-haired, natural beauty I liked her much better than with all that plastic surgery done to her face in the last years, but that is another issue.
Another movie I enjoyed very much is „8 Mile“ (2003), directed by Curtis Hanson. It belongs to my favorites as it came with a big surprise. I haven't been a fan of Eminem's before, but after watching the fascinating story of his success, I became. Eminem is not only a fantastic rapper and narrator of his own „from rags to riches“-myth, but also a very good actor. Playing himself (here named Jimmy Rabbit), fighting his way up from the trailer parc to the famous hip hop artist we know today, is quite a stunning journey. The rest of the cast is also well chosen, with Kim Basinger as broken-down trailer parc mom and Brittany Murphy in one of her last roles as Jimmy's girlfriend. I also loved the hip hop battle scenes in which you get an intriguing impression of the art of free style rap. you won't see something like this in any other movie.
The third movie I want to recommend is „The Pursuit of Happiness“ (2007) by Gabriele Muccino, which is also based on a true story. Starring Will Smith and his then 9 years old son Jaden, it tells about a single father who loses his job and struggles to find another while taking care of his little son. I loved the movie as it has a realistic narrative that can happen every day, and not only in the US. „If you only struggle hard enough, you will make it in the end“ – that is the core message of that touching drama, and both Will and Jaden do a good job in giving that message to us. Especially the younger Smith played heartbreakingly cute in that movie. The fact hat there are father and son playing father and son made it even more exciting to me.
What these three movies have in common is kind of a positive approach to the idea of the „American Dream“, whereas other movies like f.e. Scorseses legendary „Taxi Driver“ (1976) and Sam Mendes' „American Beauty“ (1999) concentrate on the antithesis of that myth, the so-called „American Nightmare“, which is also a very interesting subject and might be discussed in a further comment.
There are many other movies dealing with the „American Dream“, and I am curious to know which ones are your favorites! Thus, I am looking forward to your re-comments.