American Beauty

Synopsis: Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is a gainfully employed suburban husband and father. Fed up with his boring, stagnant existence, he quits his job and decides to reinvent himself as a pot-smoking, responsibility-shirking teenager. What follows is at once cynical, hysterical, and, eventually, tragically uplifting.
Genre: Drama
Director(s): Sam Mendes
Production: Dream Works
  Won 5 Oscars. Another 104 wins & 100 nominations.
 
IMDB:
8.4
Metacritic:
86
Rotten Tomatoes:
88%
R
Year:
1999
122 min
Website
3,842 Views


INT. FITTS HOUSE - RICKY'S BEDROOM - NIGHT

On VIDEO:
JANE BURNHAM lays in bed, wearing a tank top. She's

sixteen, with dark, intense eyes.

JANE:

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.

(snorts)

What a lame-o. Somebody really should

put him out of his misery.

Her mind wanders for a beat.

RICKY (O.S.)

Want me to kill him for you?

Jane looks at us and sits up.

JANE:

(deadpan)

Yeah, would you?

FADE TO BLACK:

FADE IN:

EXT. ROBIN HOOD TRAIL - EARLY MORNING

We're FLYING above suburban America, DESCENDING SLOWLY toward

a tree-lined street.

LESTER (V.O.)

My name is Lester Burnham. This is

my neighborhood. This is my street.

This... is my life. I'm forty-two

years old. In less than a year, I'll

be dead.

INT. BURNHAM HOUSE - MASTER BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS

We're looking down at a king-sized BED from OVERHEAD:

LESTER BURNHAM lies sleeping amidst expensive bed linens,

face down, wearing PAJAMAS. An irritating ALARM CLOCK RINGS.

Lester gropes blindly to shut it off.

LESTER (V.O.)

Of course, I don't know that yet.

He rolls over, looks up at us and sighs. He doesn't seem too

thrilled at the prospect of a new day.

LESTER (V.O.)

And in a way, I'm dead already.

He sits up and puts on his slippers.

INT. BURNHAM HOUSE - MASTER BATH - MOMENTS LATER

Lester thrusts his face directly into a steaming hot shower.

ANGLE from outside the shower: Lester's naked body is

silhouetted through the fogged-up glass door. It becomes

apparent he is masturbating.

LESTER (V.O.)

(amused)

Look at me, jerking off in the shower.

(then)

This will be the high point of my

day. It's all downhill from here.

EXT. BURNHAM HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER

CLOSE on a single, dewy AMERICAN BEAUTY ROSE. A gloved hand

with CLIPPERS appears and SNIPS the flower off.

CAROLYN BURNHAM tends her rose bushes in front of the Burnham

house. A very well-put together woman of forty, she wears

color-coordinated gardening togs and has lots of useful and

expensive tools.

Lester watches her through a WINDOW on the first floor,

peeping out through the drapes.

LESTER (V.O.)

That's my wife Carolyn. See the way

the handle on those pruning shears

matches her gardening clogs? That's

not an accident.

EXT. JIMS' HOUSE - CONTINUOUS

In the fenced front yard of the house next door, a dog BARKS

repeatedly. A MAN in a conservative suit (JIM #1) chastises

the barking dog.

JIM #1

Hush, Bitsy. You hush. What is wrong?

LESTER (V.O.)

That's our next-door neighbor Jim.

A second MAN in a conservative suit (JIM #2) comes out of

the house.

LESTER (V.O.)

And that's his lover, Jim.

JIM #2

(re:
barking dog)

What in the world is wrong with her?

She had a walk this morning.

JIM #1

And a jerky treat.

JIM #2

You spoil her.

(sternly)

Bitsy. No bark. Come inside. Now.

EXT. BURNHAM HOUSE - CONTINUOUS

Lester watches all this from the window.

CAROLYN:

Good morning, Jim!

Jim #1 walks toward the fence to greet Carolyn.

JIM #1

Morning, Carolyn.

CAROLYN:

(overly friendly)

I just love your tie! That color!

JIM #1

I just love your roses. How do you

get them to flourish like this?

CAROLYN:

Well, I'll tell you. Egg shells and

Miracle Grow.

Jim #1 and Carolyn continue to chat, unaware that Lester is

watching them.

LESTER (V.O.)

Man. I get exhausted just watching

her.

Lester's POV:
We can't hear what Jim and Carolyn are saying,

but she's overly animated, like a TV talk show host.

LESTER (V.O.)

She wasn't always like this. She

used to be happy. We used to be happy.

INT. BURNHAM HOUSE - JANE'S ROOM - CONTINUOUS

JANE is seated at her desk, working at her computer.

LESTER (V.O.)

My daughter Jane. Only child.

CLOSE on the COMPUTER MONITOR: A PERSONAL BANKING SOFTWARE

window suddenly disappears to reveal another window: a PLASTIC

SURGERY WEBSITE, featuring clinical "before" and "after"

photos of surgically augmented breasts.

LESTER (V.O.)

Janie's a pretty typical teenager.

Angry, insecure, confused. I wish I

could tell her that's all going to

pass...

Outside, a CAR HORN BLARES. Jane stuffs items into her

BACKPACK.

LESTER (V.O.)

But I don't want to lie to her.

We HEAR the CAR HORN again from outside. Jane studies herself

in a mirror, then shifts to get a good profile of her breasts.

EXT. BURNHAM HOUSE - CONTINUOUS

Carolyn stands next to a platinum-colored MERCEDES-BENZ ML320,

reaching in through the drivers' window to blow the HORN

again.

Jane shuffles out of the house, her backpack slung over her

shoulder.

CAROLYN:

Jane. Honey. Are you trying to look

unattractive?

JANE:

Yes.

CAROLYN:

Well, congratulations. You've

succeeded admirably.

Jane gets in the car. Lester hurries out the front door,

carrying a BRIEFCASE.

CAROLYN:

Lester, could you make me a little

later, please? Because I'm not quite

late enough.

Lester's briefcase suddenly springs open and his papers spill

all over the driveway. He drops to his knees to gather

everything.

JANE:

Nice going, Dad.

Lester smiles sheepishly, trying to lighten the moment.

His POV:
Carolyn looks down at us, contemptuous but also

bored, as if she gave up expecting anything more long ago.

LESTER (V.O.)

Both my wife and daughter think I'm

this gigantic loser, and... they're

right.

INT. MERCEDES-BENZ ML320 - A SHORT TIME LATER

Carolyn is driving; Jane stares out the window. Lester is

asleep in the back seat.

LESTER (V.O.)

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.

Rate this script:3.7 / 3 votes

Alan Ball

Alan Erwin Ball (born May 13, 1957)[1] is an American writer, director, and producer for television, film, and theatre. more…

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