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American Beauty (1999)

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A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend.

Director:

Sam Mendes

Writer:

Alan Ball
Popularity
351 ( 13)
Top Rated Movies #65 | Won 5 Oscars. Another 104 wins & 100 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kevin Spacey ... Lester Burnham
Annette Bening ... Carolyn Burnham
Thora Birch ... Jane Burnham
Wes Bentley ... Ricky Fitts
Mena Suvari ... Angela Hayes
Peter Gallagher ... Buddy Kane
Allison Janney ... Barbara Fitts
Chris Cooper ... Colonel Fitts
Scott Bakula ... Jim Olmeyer
Sam Robards ... Jim Berkley
Barry Del Sherman ... Brad
Ara Celi ... Sale House Woman #1
John Cho ... Sale House Man #1
Fort Atkinson Fort Atkinson ... Sale House Man #2
Sue Casey Sue Casey ... Sale House Woman #2
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Storyline

After his death sometime in his forty-third year, suburbanite Lester Burnham tells of the last few weeks of his life, during which he had no idea of his imminent passing. He is a husband to real estate agent Carolyn Burnham and father to high school student Janie Burnham. Although Lester and Carolyn once loved each other, they now merely tolerate each other. Typical wallflower Janie too hates both her parents, the three who suffer individually in silence in their home life. Janie tries to steer clear of both her parents. Carolyn, relatively new to the real estate business, wants to create the persona of success to further her career, she aspiring to the professional life of Buddy Kane, the king of the real estate business in their neighborhood. Lester merely walks mindlessly through life, including at his job in advertising. His company is downsizing, and he, like all the other employees, has to justify his position to the newly hired efficiency expert to keep his job. Things change ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

... look closer

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, language, violence and drug content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

DreamWorks | Official Facebook

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1 October 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Belleza americana See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$861,531, 19 September 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$130,096,601

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$226,200,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS | Dolby

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Screenwriter Alan Ball originally intended to write a script about Amy Fisher, the "Long Island Lolita" who shot lover Joey Buttafuoco's wife Mary Jo Buttafuoco in 1992, but each successive draft of the script drifted farther away from that story, until it essentially disappeared. See more »

Goofs

In the opening sequence of the film we see an overhead shot of the Burnhams' master bedroom, Lester is lying in bed on his stomach, rousing when his alarm clock goes off. Circular white matte board cutouts cap the top of the lamp shades on either side of the bed blocking the bare light bulbs from shining straight into the camera lens (and probably hiding color correcting gels on the bulbs that would only be found in lamps on nightstands in bedrooms on stage). See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jane Burnham: 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. Someone really should just put him out of his misery.
Ricky Fitts: Want me to kill him for you?
Jane Burnham: Yeah. Would you?
See more »

Crazy Credits

thanks to all at the Donmar Warehouse in London and Dr. Bill and Alice See more »

Connections

Referenced in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Episode #8.37 (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

As Long As I'm Singing
Written and Performed by Bobby Darin
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Beautiful...
29 November 2003 | by Philip_PughSee all my reviews

Probably the best film of 1999. This dark comedy drama marks two fantastic feature film debuts with Alan Ball as writer and Sam Mendes as director (both winning oscars for their sterling efforts).

Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man on the brink of a mid-life crisis, who suddenly becomes obsessed with one of his teenage daughters friends played by Mena Suvari. His daughter (Thora Birch) is, as Lester tells us; "a typical teenager. Angry, insecure, confused...". And his wife Caroline (Annette Bening) has an obsession of her own, her public appearance.

Life starts off on a downer for the Burnhams and their new neighbours the Fitts despite their lives looking good from the outside.

As life begins to improve (with most of the main characters finding what they think is love or new relationships) it soon all comes crashing down in the climactic final day.

The writing is nothing short of brilliant and made even more amazing by knowing that it comes from a first time feature film screen writer Alan Ball (who had had years of prior experience writing TV sitcoms - not that you'd be able to guess from the tone of this film).

The directing is on a par with the writing and Sam Mendes manages to get some brilliant performances from the great cast, who are all faultless. No doubt Mendes' theatre directing past played a huge part in directing the actors so well.

Another person worthy of a mention is the late director of photography Conrad L. Hall, another one of the five oscar recipients for this film.

All the elements in this film gel perfectly together to make one superb masterpiece. Not one person, either cast or crew, steals this film or does anymore than anyone else to make this film what it is. Truly an ensemble effort. 10/10.


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