American Beauty

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American Beauty is a 1999 film about a husband and father who is going through a mid-life crisis, and how his newfound quest for love, freedom and self-liberation impacts on his family and neighbours.

Directed by Sam Mendes. Written by Alan Ball

Lester Burnham[edit]

  • My name is Lester Burnham. This is my street. This is my neighborhood. This is my life. I am 42 years old. In less than a year, I will be dead. Of course, I don't know that yet, and in a way, I'm dead already. Look at me, jerking off in the shower. This will be the highlight of my day. It's all downhill from here. That's my wife Carolyn. See the way the handle on those pruning shears match her gardening clogs? That's not an accident. That's our neighbor, Jim, and that's his lover, Jim. Man, I get exhausted just watching her. She wasn't always like this. She used to be happy. We used to be happy. My daughter, Jane. Only child. Janie's a pretty typical teenager - angry, insecure, confused. I wish I could tell her that's all going to pass, but I don't want to lie to her. Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser. And they're right. I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn't always feel this -- sedated. But you know what? It's never too late to get it back.
  • Smile! You're at Mr. Smiley's.
  • This isn't life, it's just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts.
  • It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you've forgotten about.
  • Remember those posters that said, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life"? Well, that's true of every day but one - the day you die.
  • I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout Camp, watching falling stars. [Gunshot] And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. [Gunshot] Or my grandmother's hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper. And the first time I saw my cousin Tony's brand new Firebird. And Janie, and Janie. And Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry. You will someday.

Carolyn Burnham[edit]

  • [To Jane] Honey, I'm so proud of you. I watched you very closely! You didn't screw up once!
  • [To herself] Stop it! Shut up! You’re weak! You baby! Shut up!
  • My company sells an image. It's part of my job to live that image.
  • [To Jane] You cannot count on anyone except yourself.
  • I refuse to be a victim!

Ricky Fitts[edit]

  • Welcome to America's weirdest home videos.
  • Never underestimate the power of denial.
  • [to Janey] Do you want to see the most beautiful thing I've ever filmed? It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing, and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was just, dancing with me, like a little kid beggin' me to play with it - for fifteen minutes. And that's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember - I need to remember. Sometimes, there's so much beauty in the world - I feel like I can't take it, like my heart is just going to cave in.
  • [To Angela, after she calls Jane ugly] Yes you are. And you're boring. And totally ordinary. And you know it.

Buddy Kane[edit]

  • In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times.


Janie: Sorry I'm late.
Carolyn: No, that's quite all right, dear. Your father and I were just discussing his day at work. [to Lester] Why don't you tell our daughter about it, honey?
Lester: Janie, today I quit my job.
Carolyn: [laughs]
Lester: And then I told my boss to go fuck himself, and then I blackmailed him for almost sixty thousand dollars. Pass the asparagus.
Carolyn: [laughing] Your father seems to think this kind of behavior is something to be proud of!
Lester: And your mother seems to prefer I go through life like a fucking prisoner while she keeps my dick in a Mason jar under the sink.
Carolyn: How dare you speak to me that way in front of her. And I marvel that you can be so contemptuous of me, on the same day that you lose your job.
Lester: I didn't lose it. It's not like, "Whoops! Where'd my job go?" I quit! Pass the asparagus.
Carolyn: Oh! Oh! Oh! And I want to thank you for putting me under the added pressure of being the sole breadwinner now!
Lester: I already have a job.
Carolyn: No, no, don't give a second thought as to who's gonna pay the mortgage. We'll just leave it all up to Carolyn! You mean you're gonna take care of everything now, Carolyn? Yes. I don't mind, I really don't. You mean everything? You don't mind having the sole responsibility, your husband feels he can just quit his job and you don't--
Lester: [overlapping] Will someone please pass me the fucking asparagus?
Jane: [standing] Okay, guys, I'm not gonna be a part of this.
Lester: Sit down! [Janie sits. Lester stands up, walks to the other side of the table, picks up the plate of asparagus, then sits back down] I am sick and tired of being treated like I don't exist. You two do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, and I don't complain. Now all I want is the same--
Carolyn: [interrupting] Oh, you don't complain? Oh please! Excuse me! Excuse me! I must be psychotic, then! If you don't complain, what is this? [Lester stands with the asparagus plate in his hand] Yeah, let's bring in the laugh-meter and see how loud it gets on that one. You don't compl--
Lester: [throws the asparagus plate at the wall] [Casually looking a stunned Carolyn in the eyes] Don't interrupt me, honey. [sits back down to eat, looking up at the background music in disdain] Oh, and another thing, from now on we're going to alternate our dinner music, because, frankly--and I don't think I'm alone here-- [looks in Jane's direction] I'm really tired of this Lawrence Welk shit!

Mr. Smiley's Manager: I don't think you'd fit in here.
Lester: I have fast food experience.
Mr. Smiley's Manager: Yeah, like twenty years ago!
Lester: Well, I'm sure there have been amazing technological advances in the industry, but surely you must have some sort of training program. It seems unfair to presume I won't be able to learn.

Carolyn: Janie, are you trying to look unattractive?
Jane: Yes.
Carolyn: Congratulations, you've succeeded admirably!

Ricky: You're right, I suck dick for money.
Colonel Frank Fitts: Boy, don't start.
Ricky Fitts: Two thousand dollars, I'm that good.
Colonel Frank Fitts: Get out.
Ricky: And you should see me fuck. I'm the best piece of ass in three states.
[Colonel Fitts threatens to hit Ricky]
Colonel Frank Fitts: Get out! I don't ever want to see you again.
Ricky: What a sad old man you are.

Lester: How's Jane?
Angela: What do you mean?
Lester: I mean, how's her life? Is she happy? Is she miserable? I'd really like to know, and she'd die before she'd-
Angela: She's... she's really happy. She thinks she's in love.
Lester: Good for her.
Angela: How are you?
Lester: God, it's been a long time since anybody asked me that... I'm great.

Ricky: It's like God's looking right at you, just for a second, and if you're careful... you can look right back.
Jane: And what do you see?
Ricky: Beauty.

Angela: And then he just pulled down his pants, you know, like say hello to Mr. Happy.
Teenage girl #1: Gross.
Angela: It wasn't gross. It was kind of cool.
Teenage girl #2: So did you do it with him?
Angela: Of course I did! He's a really well-known photographer. He shoots for Elle on like, a regular basis. It would've been so majorly stupid of me to turn him down.
Teenage girl #1: You are a total prostitute.
Angela: Hey, that's how things really are. You just don't know cause you're this pampered little suburban chick.
Teenage girl #1: So are you! You've only been in Seventeen once, and you looked fat, so stop acting like you're god damn Christy Turlington! [walks away]
Angela: Cunt! I am so sick of people taking their insecurities out on me.

Jane: Oh my god, that's the pervert who filmed me last night!
Angela: Him? Jane, no way, he's a total psycho.
Jane: You know him?
Angela: Yeah, we were on the same lunch shift when I was in ninth grade and he would always say the most random, weird things. And then one day, he was just like, gone. And then, Connie Cardullo told me that his parents had to put him in a mental institution.
Jane: Why? What did he do?
Angela: What do you mean?
Jane: Well, they can't put you away just for saying weird things.
Angela: You total slut. You got a crush on him!
Jane: What? Please.
Angela: You were defending him! You love him, you wanna have like ten thousand of his babies!

Carolyn: Lester, you're going to spill beer on the couch.
Lester: So what? It's just a couch.
Carolyn: This is a four thousand dollar sofa, upholstered in Italian silk. This is not just a couch!
Lester: It's just a couch!


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