American Beauty

                                                                

 

  Janie, today I quit my job. And then I told my boss to go f*ck himself, and then I

      blackmailed him for  almost sixty thousand dollars. Pass the asparagus.

 

Lester Burnham (Spacey) is a 42-year-old father and advertising executive who serves as the film's narrator. Lester's family life is messy  his wife Carolyn (Bening) is an ambitious realtor who feels that she is unsuccessful at fulfilling her potential, and his 16-year-old daughter Jane is unhappy and struggling with self-esteem issues. Lester himself is a self-described loser: boring, faceless and easy to forget. Lester is reinvigorated, however, when he meets Jane's friend and classmate Angela Hayes at a high school basketball game. Lester immediately develops an obvious infatuation with Angela. Throughout the film, Lester has numerous sexual fantasies. The Burnhams' also get new neighbours are Col. Frank Fitts, USMC (Cooper), his distracted wife Barbara, and his son Ricky. When confronted with the gay couple living two doors down, Col. Fitts displays a distinctly bigoted attitude.

Over the course of a single day, each of the Burnhams individually makes a life-changing choice. Carolyn meets real estate rival Buddy Kane for a business lunch and ends up beginning an affair with him. Lester blackmails his boss for $60,000, quits his job, and takes up low-pressure employment as a burger-flipper at a fast food chain. He continues to liberate himself by trading in his Toyota for his dream car, a 1970 Pontiac Firebird, continuing to work out, and smoking marijuana. Jane, while growing distant from Angela, develops a romantic relationship with Ricky, having bonded over what he considers to be his most beautiful footage he has ever filmed, that of a plastic grocery bag dancing in the wind. Ricky himself quickly befriends Lester and secretly acts as Lester's marijuana supplier.

Col. Fitts, concerned over the growing relationship between Lester and Ricky, roots through his son's possessions, which includes footage of Lester working out - slowly coming to the conclusion that his son is gay. Buddy and Carolyn are found out by Lester, who seems to be completely unfazed by his wife's infidelity. Carolyn, who is almost more devastated by Lester's indifference than by her being exposed as an adulteress, is further dismayed when Buddy reacts by breaking off the affair. Later that night, Ricky returns home to find his father waiting for him with fists and vitriol, having mistaken his drug rendezous with Lester for a sexual affair. Realising this as an opportunity for freedom, Ricky falsely agrees that he is gay and goads his violent father until he is thrown out. Ricky rushes to Jane's house and asks her to flee with him to New York City - something she agrees to, much to the dismay of Angela, who quickly protests. Ricky shoots her down with her deepest fear: that she is boring and completely ordinary. Broken and dismayed, Angela storms out of the room, leaving Jane and Ricky to concile.

Lester finds an emotionally fragile Col. Fitts standing outside in the pouring rain and attempts to comfort him, but is taken by surprise when Fitts kisses him. Lester gently rebuffs him. Fitts, shamed and broken, wanders back into the rain. Meanwhile, Carolyn sits alone in her car on the side of the road, holding her gun and becoming more and more infuriated at the day's turn of events. Moments later, Lester finds a distraught Angela and is on the edge of consummating their relationship, but the seduction is derailed when she confesses that she is a virgin. Lester immediately withdraws, his affections shifting to that of a father-figure, and they bond over their shared frustrations with and concern for Jane, Lester seeming to be pleased when Angela confesses that Jane's in love. Angela asks how he's feeling and he realizes, to his own surprise, that he feels great. After Angela excuses herself to the bathroom, a happy Lester sits at the table looking at a photo of his family in happier times. Unaware of the gun being held to the back of his head, Lester places the photo down, and is subsequently shot and killed.

In his final narration, Lester looks back on the events of his life, interclined with images of everyone's reactions to the sound of the gunshot, including one of a bloody and shaken Col. Fitts with a gun missing from his collection. Despite his death, Lester, from his vantage point as narrator, is content:....

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Script

Directed by Sam Mendes
Produced by Bruce Cohen
Dan Jinks
Written by Alan Ball
Starring Kevin Spacey
Annette Bening
Thora Birch
Wes Bentley
Mena Suvari
Chris Cooper
Peter Gallagher
Allison Janney
Music by Thomas Newman
Distributed by DreamWorks
Release date(s) September 8, 1999
Running time 122 min.
Language English
Budget $356,296,601

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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