American Beauty (1999 film)

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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.
...look closer.

Lester Burnham

  • My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. 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.
  • 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.
  • You better watch yourself, Janie, or you're gonna turn into a real bitch, just like your mother.
  • 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

  • [To Janie] 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!

Ricky Fitts

  • Welcome to America's weirdest home videos.
  • My dad thinks I paid for all this with catering jobs. Never underestimate the power of denial.
  • [to Janie] 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 was this electricity in the air. You can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just, dancing with me, like a little kid beggin' me to play with it - for fifteen minutes. 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.

Angela Hayes

  • It's OK. I'm used to guys drooling over me. It started when I was about twelve, I'd go to dinner with my parents. Every Thursday night, Red Lobster. And every guy there would stare at me when I walked in. And I knew what they were thinking. Just like I knew guys at school thought about me when they jerked off...I liked it. And I still like it. If people I don't even know look at me and want to fuck me, it means I really have a shot at being a model. Which is great, because there's nothing worse in life than being ordinary.


Janie: I need a father who's a role model, not some horny geek-boy who's gonna spray his shorts whenever I bring a girlfriend home from school. What a lame-o. Somebody really should just put him out of his misery.
Ricky: Want me to kill him for you?
Janie: Yeah, would you?

Lester: You don't think it's kinda weird and fascist?
Carolyn: Possibly, but you don't want to be unemployed.
Lester: Oh well, all right, let's all sell our souls and work for Satan because it's more convenient that way.

Janie: Dad. Mom's waiting for you.
Lester: Well, it was very nice meeting you, Angela. Any friend of Janie's is a friend of mine. Well, I'll be seeing you around, then.
Janie: Could he be any more pathetic?
Angela: I think it's sweet. And I think he and your mother have not had sex in a long time.

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.

Carolyn: What are you doing?
Lester: Nothing.
Carolyn: You were masturbating!
Lester: I was not.
Carolyn: Yes you were!
Lester: Oh, all right! So shoot me, I was whacking off! That's right, I was choking the bishop, chafing the carrot, you know, saying "hi" to my monster!
Carolyn: That's disgusting!
Lester: Well forgive me, but some of us still have blood pumping through our veins.
Carolyn: So do I.
Lester: Really?! Well, I'm the only one who seems to be doing anything about it!
Carolyn: Lester, I refuse to live like this! This is not a marriage!
Lester Burnham: This hasn't been a marriage, for years, but you were happy as long as I kept my mouth shut. Well, guess what, I've changed! And the new me whacks off when he feels horny, because you're obviously not gonna help me out in that department!
Carolyn: Oh, I see. You think you're the only one who's sexually frustrated here?
Lester: I'm not? Well, then, come on, baby, I'm ready!
Carolyn: Don't you mess with me, mister, or I'll divorce you so fast it'll make your head spin!
Lester: On what grounds? I'm not a drunk, I don't fuck other women, I've never hit you, I don't mistreat you... I don't even try to touch you since you've made it so abundantly clear how unnecessary you consider me to be! But I did support you when you got your license, and some people might think that entitles me to half of what's yours. So, turn off the light when you come to bed!

Carolyn: I see you're smoking pot now. I'm so glad. I think using illegal psychotropic substances is a very positive example to set for our daughter.
Lester: You're one to talk, you bloodless, money­ grubbing freak.
Carolyn: Lester. You have such hostility in you!...Lester, you will not get away with this. You can be sure of that!

Brad: [reading Lester's job description] "My job consists of basically masking my contempt for the assholes in charge, and, at least once a day, retiring to the men's room so I can jerk off while I fantasize about a life that doesn't so closely resemble Hell." Well, you have absolutely no interest in saving yourself.
Lester: Brad, for 14 years I've been a whore for the advertising industry. The only way I could save myself now is if I start firebombing.
Brad: Whatever. Management wants you gone by the end of the day.
Lester: Well, just what sort of severance package is management prepared to offer me? Considering the information I have about our Editorial Director buying pussy with company money - which, I think, would interest the I.R.S., since it technically constitutes fraud; and I'm sure that some of our advertisers and rival publications might like to know about it as well. Not to mention, [grins] Craig's wife!
Brad: What do you want?
Lester: One year's salary, with benefits.
Brad: That's not going to happen.
Lester: Well, what do you say I throw in a little sexual harassment charge, to boot?
Brad: [chuckles in disbelief] Against who?
Lester: [he chuckles right back] Against YOU. Can you prove that you didn't offer to save my job if I let you blow me?
Brad: Man, you are one twisted fuck.
Lester: Nope; I'm just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose.

Ricky: [about a dead homeless woman he filmed] When you see something like that, it's like God is 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.

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

Carolyn: Uh, whose car is that out front?
Lester: Mine. 1970 Pontiac Firebird. The car I've always wanted and now I have it. I rule!
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! This isn't life! This is just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts.

Lester: [at the drive-thru] Smile! You're at Mr. Smiley's.
Carolyn: Uh, Buddy, this is my...
Lester: Her husband. We've met before, but something tells me you're going to remember me this time.
Janine: Whoa, you are so busted!
Carolyn: You know, this really doesn't concern you!
Lester: Actually, Janine is senior-manager of the drive thru so you kind of are on her turf.

Ricky: [laughs] Oh, Dad, you don't really think that me and Mr. Burnham were...
Colonel Fitts: Don't you laugh at me. Now, I will not sit back and watch my only son become a cock-sucker!
Ricky: Jesus, what is it with you?
Colonel Fitts: I swear to God, I will throw you out of the house and never look at you again!
Ricky: You mean that?
Colonel Fitts: You're damn straight I do. I'd rather you were dead than be a fuckin' faggot.
Ricky: You're right, I suck dick for money.
Colonel Fitts: Boy, don't start.
Ricky Fitts: Two thousand dollars, I'm that good.
Colonel Fitts: Get out.
Ricky: And you should see me fuck. I'm the best piece of ass in three states.
[Colonel Fitts hits Ricky]
Colonel Fitts: Get out! I don't ever want to see you again.
Ricky: What a sad old man you are.

Angela: [about Ricky] Jane, he's a freak!
Jane: Then so am I! And we'll always be freaks and we'll never be like other people and you'll never be a freak because you're just too... perfect!
Angela: Yeah? Well, at least I'm not ugly!
Ricky: Yes you are. And you're boring. And totally ordinary. And you know it.
Angela: You two deserve each other.

Angela: Jane and I had a fight. It was about you. She's mad at me because I said I think you're sexy.
Lester: So, you gonna tell me? What do you want?
Angela: I don't know...What do you want?
Lester: Are you kidding? I want you. I've wanted you ever since the first moment I saw you. You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
Angela: You don't think I'm ordinary?
Lester: You couldn't be ordinary if you tried.
Angela: Thank you. I don't think there's anything worse than being ordinary.
[She opens her blouse, exposing her breasts, and lies back beneath Lester]
Angela: This is my first time.
Lester: [He laughs] You're kidding.
Angela: I'm sorry. I still want to do it. I just thought I should tell you in case you wondered why I wasn't...better.
[He stops]
Angela: What's wrong? I thought you said I was beautiful.
Lester: You are beautiful. You are so beautiful - and I would be a very lucky man.
Angela: I feel so stupid
Lester: Don't...You have nothing to be sorry about...It's OK, everything's OK.

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.


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