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American Beauty

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American Beauty

Plot summary

Lester Burnham (Spacey) is a 42-year-old father and advertising executive who serves as the film's narrator. "I'm 42 years old; in less than a year, I'll be dead. Of course, I don't know that yet. And in a way, I'm dead already." 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 (Birch) is unhappy and struggling with self-esteem issues. Lester himself is a self-described loser. Lester is reinvigorated, however, when he meets Jane's friend and classmate Angela Hayes (Suvari) at a high school basketball game. Lester immediately develops an obvious infatuation with Angela, much to his daughter's loss. Throughout the film, Lester has fantasies involving a sexually aggressive Angela and red rose petals. The Burnhams' new neighbors are Col. Frank Fitts, USMC (Cooper), his dissociated wife Barbara (Janney), and his teenage son Ricky (Bentley). When confronted with the gay couple living two doors down, Col. Fitts reacts with homophobic disgust.

Col. Fitts, concerned over the growing relationship between Lester and Ricky, roots through his son's possessions, finding footage of Lester working out in the nude (captured by chance while Ricky was filming Jane through her bedroom window)- slowly bringing him 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. As evening falls, Ricky returns home to find his father waiting for him with fists and vitriol, having mistaken his drug rendezvous with Lester for a sexual affair. Realising this as an opportunity for freedom, Ricky falsely agrees that he is gay and goads his father until Col. Fitts throws him 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. Devastated, Angela storms out of the room, leaving Jane and Ricky to one another permanently.
An emotionally fragile Col. Fitts approaches Lester's garage/workout room in the pouring rain, and Lester is concerned and attempts to comfort him, but is taken by surprise when Fitts kisses him. Moments later, Lester finds a distraught Angela, and the two of them prove to be in the appropriate mental spaces to be on the verge of sexual intercourse. The seduction, while powerful, is derailed when Angela confesses that she is a virgin. Now viewing her only as an innocent child, 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 asks "How's her life?" and is pleased when Angela says that Jane's in love. When Angela then asks how Lester is, he realizes, to his own surprise, that he feels great. A happy Lester sits at the table looking at a photograph of his family in happier times, as Angela is at the toilet, unaware of the gun being slowly led into the camera frame and pressed to the back of his head. A gunshot is heard, then, and blood splatters the kitchen wall.

In his final narration, Lester looks back on the events of his life, intertwined with images of everyone's reactions to the sound of the subsequential 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 happy.

Source: taken on Dec. 24 2008

Critic Reviews

by Kenneth Turan
Unsettling, unnerving, undefinable, American Beauty avoids quick and easy categorization. A quirky and disturbing take on modern American life energized by bravura performances from Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, Beauty is a blood-chilling dark comedy with unexpected moments of both fury and warmth, a strange, brooding and very accomplished film that sets us back on our heels from its opening frames.
"This is my neighborhood, this is my street, this is my life," Lester Burnham (Spacey) says in neutral voice-over as the camera narrows in from an aerial perspective to his red suburban front door as he delivers shock No. 1: "I'm 42 years old. In less than a year, I'll be dead. Of course, I don't know that yet. In a way, I'm dead already."
To inform us that, as in Sunset Boulevard, we're watching a film narrated by a corpse is a quick way to get everyone's attention, but Beauty, the provocative debut for director Sam Mendes, goes further. Layered with surprises, at home in unfamiliar territory, this film more than doesn't let on what it's thinking or where it's going; it intentionally misleads with dramatic dodges and feints calculated to throw everyone off balance and keep them there.
Whenever a film is this distinctive, it invariably starts with the writing. Beauty is the first feature by veteran TV writer Alan Ball (Cybill and the upcoming Oh Grow Up), and in its ability to make us uncomfortable by changing emotional colors as subtly and gradually as a kaleidoscope, it bears the hallmarks of someone pouring everything he felt constrained from doing in one medium into an extremely personal piece of work in another.
American Beauty's subject is the hollow space behind the American dream, the frustrations that hide under the perfectly mannered surfaces of our lives. "Never underestimate the power of denial," one character says, but in some ways what we're shown is not the power but the price of denial, how a world without moorings, without honesty, without human connections turns everyone into a lost soul on the verge of a self-centered psychotic breakdown.
Lester certainly fits that description when he takes us on a voice-over tour of his life. The first stop (and, he coolly informs us, the high point of his day) is Lester masturbating in his morning shower before putting in his time at a trade magazine called Media Monthly. His wife and daughter, Lester says, consider him "this gigantic loser," and, not really disagreeing, he tells people who've forgotten they've met him, "I wouldn't remember me either."
Lester is equally savage about the other family members. Stepford Wife Carolyn (Bening) is a residential broker locked into a perennially losing battle with Buddy Kane, the self-proclaimed King of Real Estate (Peter Gallagher). She prefers elevator music during dinner and spends her spare time worrying about her furniture and growing roses. "See the way the handle on those pruning shears matches her gardening clogs?" Lester asks witheringly. "That's not an accident."
Then there's 16-year-old daughter Jane (Thora Birch). Unsmiling, insecure and ferociously unhappy, her sullen anger is as constant and unwavering as an eternal flame. "I wish I could tell her that's all going to pass," is Lester's cold-blooded assessment, "but I don't want to lie to her."
These kinds of acerbic comments, while striking in their drop-dead glibness, are deceptive because they make Beauty seem more familiar than it is. We've all seen this kind of highly stylized verbal farce, complete with sarcastic line readings, but director Mendes has something more complex and more subversive in mind.
Though he's only 34, the English director has already established himself in the theater, directing the Nicole Kidman-starring The Blue Room and a celebrated revival of Cabaret. His accomplishment here is to capture and enhance the unlooked-for duality that is at the core of Ball's discomforting screenplay. For in addition to being stylized, Beauty's characters have an unmistakable sincerity about them; they manage to appear simultaneously as caricatured sendups and painfully real individuals. As their emotional valence fluctuates, so does our understanding of what is going on with them. Several different events unsettle the bitter and resentful lassitude into which the Burnham family has sunk, happenings that threaten to collapse the emotional walls the members have painstakingly created around themselves.
Goaded by his wife to take an interest in their daughter's life, Lester accompanies Carolyn to a Rockwell High basketball game, where Jane is a member of a cheerleading squad called the Dancing Spartanettes. Desultorily watching their routine, Lester suddenly has a vision and, not unlike Paul on the road to Damascus, is instantly transformed. He sees Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari) and nothing is the same.
A fellow Spartanette and friend of Jane's, Angela is such a classic all-American blond (think angel) that Lester has erotic visions of her unclothed under layers of deep red rose petals. He immediately contrives to meet her, and his midlife fantasy of seducing Angela becomes so strong it galvanizes him to completely change his life.
While wife Carolyn is too focused, in more ways than one, on real estate king Kane to notice what's going on, daughter Jane is horrified at her father's lust. "Could he be any more pathetic?" she disgustedly asks, but Angela seems to enjoy entertaining the idea. Used to guys drooling over her, she fears nothing in life more than being ordinary, and Lester's interest in her is proof of her special qualities.
Meanwhile, a different kind of dysfunctional family has moved in next door to the Burnhams, headed by a just-retired career military man who always introduces himself as "Col. Frank Fitts, U.S. Marine Corps" (Chris Cooper). But before we meet the colonel, his catatonic wife, Barbara (Allison Janney), and their mysterious teenage son Ricky (Wes Bentley), we are aware of their presence when the film's point of view suddenly changes and Lester and his daughter are viewed through the lens of a digital camera.
Ricky Fitts, it turns out, is a fanatic for video; it's his way of interfacing with a world and a father that have not come close to understanding him. He records everything; his room is lined with the discs he's filled with images, and right now there's nothing he wants to record more than Jane. He finds her interesting, he tells her, and despite Angela's horror and Ricky's Bible salesman way of dressing, Jane finds herself drawn to the one quality he has that she lacks: quiet but complete self-confidence.
If there is any constant in American Beauty's story of how this island of lost souls resolves itself, it's that things rarely go where you think they will. Scenes ambush us out of nowhere, revealing both flash-floods of fury and frustration too powerful to contain, and moments of sadness, wistfulness, even hope that are both convincing and able to catch us completely unawares.
With a film so delicately balanced, the quality of the acting is especially crucial, and it's hard to overstate how difficult these duality-laden roles are and how faultlessly the actors handle them. Bening's image-obsessed and frustrated wife, Birch's despairing daughter, Suvari's conniving proto-Lolita, these characters are all inhabited completely and convincingly.
Equally effective are Beauty's two key males. Bentley, in a haunting role numerous young actors were after, brings a commanding but low-key intensity and intimacy to Ricky Fitts that never promises more than it can deliver. And Spacey's power is finally the energy that drives this film. It's not that we're always on his side--far from it--but that we can't help being involved in his quest to recover the ideals and enthusiasm that once animated his life.
There is also a sense about American Beauty that it has paradoxically benefited from director Mendes' debut status, an anything's possible daring that was fortuitously married to his great experience with drama that enabled him to try for original emotional effects that might have daunted more experienced hands.
Mendes was also shrewd in his choice of supporting staff, including highly regarded composer Thomas Newman and one of the great names of cinematography, the eight-time Oscar-nominated Conrad Hall, who gives the film a dreamlike quality set off by the right touch of cool, composed reality.
It's also Hall, in a dialogue with fellow director of photography Haskell Wexler in a recent issue of American Cinematographer, who provides a key insight into this unusual film. Hall relates going to Mendes and saying, "'I love this story and the project, but my God, how can you like these characters?' He told me, 'Well, Conrad, you have to like them. If you don't like them, we don't have a picture here.'" Against considerable odds, we do like them, and there definitely is a hell of a picture here.
Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times

Source: taken on Dec. 24 2008


by James Berardinelli

Over the years, many films have taken a dark look at the supposedly perfect ideal of a white picket fence, a little house, and a nuclear family. For many, the suburban life is the American dream. For others, however, it can turn into a twisted nightmare of unfulfilled desires, repressed needs, and shattered hopes. Because of the necessity to keep up appearances, a serene facade often conceals a breeding ground for dysfunction, anxiety, and hypocrisy. Directors like David Lynch have made this their playground. Lynch in particular delights in depicting the root causes of social decay in suburbia - and he does it by autopsy. American Beauty is not as dark as a Lynch project, since it allows for small moments of redemption, but it mines the same general territory.
If there's a rule in American cinema that all families not named Brady must be dysfunctional, then American Beauty does nothing to violate it. Most teenagers think their parents are strange, but, in the case of Jane Burnham (Thora Birch, whose largest previous big screen role was in Alaska), this is as much a state of reality as it is a state of mind. Her father, Lester (Kevin Spacey), is suffering through a mid-life crisis. At the age of 42, he has become apathetic to everything. "Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser," he confesses at one point, "And they're right. I have lost something. I didn't always feel this sedated." Meanwhile, Jane's mother, Carolyn (Annette Bening), places such value on status that she has turned into a "bloodless, money-grubbing freak" who has no time for any form of intimacy. Her creed: "You cannot count on anyone except yourself." She and Lester continue in their dead marriage for their daughter's sake and so they'll look normal to the outside world. In a moment of clarity, Lester admits, "Our marriage is just for show - a commercial for how normal we are, when we're anything but."
American Beauty is about the ways in which these characters grow, and the catalysts that break them out of their near-catatonic existences. It's also about the emotional paralysis that comes with age and security. We take refuge in routine, and, after a number of years, the thought of change becomes terrifying. Happiness, the goal of youth, is replaced by the desire for the artificial comfort that comes through the numbing sameness of repetition. Loveless marriages like Lester and Carolyn's exist because neither partner possesses the willingness to break the cycle. And the children they think they're protecting by staying together are often the biggest victims of their sham.
Lester's awakening is prompted by two events. The first is the potential of unemployment. At first, Lester faces this possibility with dread - without money, how can he pay the mortgage and send his daughter to college? But then, as he dissects the situation in his mind, he sees how liberating it can be - freed from responsibilities, he no longer needs to be a slave to the establishment. Then there's Jane's best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari), an attractive teenager who captures his attention and arouses his sexual interest. Lester's desire to have this girl (a need that borders on obsession) reawakens his long-dead libido.
While Lester is going through a complete reconstruction of his personality and outlook on life, Carolyn's perspective is also changing. Frustrated by her relationship (or lack thereof) with her husband, she begins an affair with a fellow real estate agent who calls himself "The King" (Peter Gallagher). While her sexual liaison with The King doesn't amount to much, it lessens Carolyn's tolerance for what she views as indolence on Lester's part.
Then there's sullen Jane, who's caught between the two of them. Displeased with her physical appearance, she is saving up for breast augmentation surgery (something she clearly does not need). As the film progresses, she develops an unusual relationship with Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley), the boy next door. He views life through a video camera, and, when he first trains his lens on Jane, she is nonplused. After a while, however, she feels flattered, and, following a particularly brutal encounter with her parents, she slowly undresses in front of a window while Ricky watches. Ricky has his own problems - his mother (Allison Janney) is virtually withdrawn from life and his father (Chris Cooper) is an ex-Marine neo-Nazi who submits his son's urine for drug testing every six months. Meanwhile, Jane also has to deal with Angela's growing fascination with the possibility of sleeping with Lester - a consideration that disgusts her.
American Beauty is the first feature film directed by Sam Mendes, who has an extensive background in theater, but displays a sureness that many veteran filmmakers are unable to match. At times evoking elements of Todd Solondz' controversial Happiness and Ang Lee's brilliant The Ice Storm, American Beauty weds compelling drama with black comedy. The movie is character-driven, but the three protagonists are so expertly developed that we are drawn to them for the entire two hour running time. Spacey, Bening, and Birch all give the kinds of top-notch performances that deserve (but do not always get) consideration at Oscar time. Spacey's Lester may be American Beauty's narrator, but, through a low-key portrayal that conveys all the angst and confusion of a particularly bad teenage experience, Birch makes Jane the film's emotional focal point.
If there's a weakness in American Beauty, it's in the way the story is structured. Spacey's voiceover narrative effectively kills a great deal of narrative tension when, during an opening scene, he reveals the film's ending. This approach is often forgivable if there's a compelling dramatic reason for it, but that isn't the case here. In fact, the use of the voiceover allows American Beauty to close with more exposition than is necessary. We don't need to be told, for example, that one of the film's points is that we should learn to savor every moment of life and to see all the hidden beauty the world has to offer.
Mendes and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall add some wonderful camera work, especially when it comes to close-ups. In most films, we rarely notice this kind of shot because it is used indiscriminately. However, in American Beauty, it serves the definite purpose of offering insight into a character's mindset. There are many close-ups in this film, and few (if any) are used for the banal purpose of varying shot selection. And Thomas Newman's dynamic, playful score compliments the picture's effective visual composition.
American Beauty doesn't trailblaze a path into hitherto untouched cinematic territory, but its presentation of vivid characters in interesting situations makes the story seem fresh. In part because it's not a complete downer and in part because it doesn't cheat the audience, American Beauty is emotionally satisfying. There's a sense of poignancy at the end, but also the feeling that we have been on an incredible trip through the lives and souls of three perfectly-realized characters. In a year that boasts few truly memorable motion pictures, Mendes can stake a claim alongside the likes of Kubrick and Egoyan as one whose cinematic vision both challenges and entertains.

Source: taken on Dec. 24, 2008

Memorable quotes for American Beauty
Lester Burnham: You don't get to tell me what to do ever again.


Colonel Frank Fitts: Where did you get that?

Ricky Fitts: From my job.

Colonel Frank Fitts: Don't lie to me. Now, I saw you with him.

Ricky Fitts: You were watching me?

Colonel Frank Fitts: What did he make you do?

Ricky Fitts: Oh, Dad, you don't really think that me and Mr. Burnham were...

Colonel Frank Fitts: Don't you laugh at me. Now, I will not sit back and watch my only son become a cock-sucker.

Ricky Fitts: Jesus, what is it with you?

Colonel Frank Fitts: I swear to God, I will throw you out of the house and never look at you again.

Ricky Fitts: You mean that?

Colonel Frank Fitts: You're damn straight I do. I'd rather you were dead than be a fuckin' faggot.

Ricky Fitts: 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 Fitts: And you should see me fuck. I'm the best piece of ass in three States.

Colonel Frank Fitts: Get out. I don't ever want to see you again.

Ricky Fitts: What a sad old man you are.


Lester Burnham: I am sick and tired of being treated like I don't exist. You two do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it, and I don't complain.

Carolyn Burnham: Oh, you don't complain? Then I must be psychotic, then! What is this? Yeah, let's bring in the laugh-meter and see how loud it gets.

Lester Burnham: [Lester throws the asparagus plate at the wall] Don't interrupt me, honey!

Lester Burnham: [sits back down to eat] Oh, yeah, and one more thing, from now on we're going to have alternate dinner music because frankly - and I don't think I'm alone here -

[looks in Jane's direction]

Lester Burnham: I'm tired of this Lawrence Welk shit!


Carolyn Burnham: Are you trying to look unattractive?

Jane Burnham: Yes.

Carolyn Burnham: Well, congratulations. You've succeeded admirably.


Ricky Fitts: I'm not obsessing. I'm just curious.


Carolyn Burnham: Uh, whose car is that out front?

Lester Burnham: Mine. 1970 Pontiac Firebird. The car I've always wanted and now I have it. I rule!


Carolyn Burnham: This is a $4,000 sofa, upholstered in Italian silk. It is not just a couch.

Lester Burnham: [shouts] It's just a couch!


Lester Burnham: Smile! You're at Mr. Smiley's.


[Lester has just caught Caroline cheating with the Real Estate King]

Carolyn Burnham: Uh, Buddy, this is my...

Lester Burnham: Her husband. We've met before, but something tells me you're going to remember me this time.


Angela Hayes: This is my first time.


[Carolyn is introducing Lester to the Real Estate King]

Carolyn Burnham: My husband, Lester.

Buddy Kane: It's a pleasure.

Lester Burnham: Oh, we've met before, actually. This thing last year, Christmas at the Sheraton...

Buddy Kane: [pretends to remember] Oh yeah, yes...

Lester Burnham: It's OK, I wouldn't remember me either.

Carolyn Burnham: [laughs nervously] Honey, don't be weird.

Lester Burnham: OK honey, I won't be weird. I'll be whatever what you want me to be.

[Lester kisses Carolyn wildly, then looks at the Real Estate King]

Lester Burnham: We have a very healthy relationship.


Lester Burnham: I figured you guys might be able to give me some pointers. I need to shape up. Fast.

Jim Olmeyer: Are you just looking to lose weight, or do you want increased strength and flexibility as well?

Lester Burnham: I want to look good naked!


Brad Dupree: [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 Burnham: 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.


Ricky Fitts: Welcome to America's weirdest home videos.


Lester Burnham: Look at me, jerking off in the shower... This will be the high point of my day; it's all downhill from here.


Lester Burnham: I feel like I've been in a coma for the past twenty years. And I'm just now waking up.


Jane Burnham: I know you think my dad's harmless, but you're wrong.


Carolyn Burnham: You ungrateful little brat! Just look at everything you have. When I was your age, we... lived in a duplex! We didn't even have our own house!


Angela Hayes: Yeah? Well, at least I'm not ugly!

Ricky Fitts: Yes, you are. And you're boring, and you're totally ordinary, and you know it.


Lester Burnham: Then I guess I'll have to throw in a sexual harassment charge.

Brad Dupree: Against who?

Lester Burnham: Against YOU. Can you prove that you didn't offer to save my job if I let you blow me?

Brad Dupree: Man, you are one twisted fuck.

Lester Burnham: Nope; I'm just an ordinary guy who has nothing left to lose.


Ricky Fitts: Excuse me for speaking so bluntly sir. But those fags make me want to puke my fucking guts out.

Colonel Frank Fitts: [cautiously, after a long pause] Well, me too son. Me too.


Ricky Fitts: 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, like, dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. And that's the day I knew there was this entire life behind things, and... this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in.


Ricky Fitts: So, do you party?

Lester Burnham: Excuse me?

Ricky Fitts: Do you get high?


Catering Boss: I'm not paying you to do... whatever it is you're doing out here.

Ricky Fitts: Fine. So don't pay me.

Catering Boss: Excuse me?

Ricky Fitts: I quit. So you don't have to pay me. Now leave me alone.

Catering Boss: ...asshole.

Lester Burnham: I think you just became my personal hero!


Carolyn Burnham: Honey, I'm so proud of you. I watched you very closely, and you didn't screw up once!


Carolyn Burnham: There happens to be a lot about me that you don't know, Mr. Smarty Man. There's plenty of joy in my life.


Brad Dupree: Got a minute?

Lester Burnham: For you, Brad, I've got five!


Angela Hayes: 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.


Ricky Fitts: My dad thinks I paid for all this with catering jobs. Never underestimate the power of denial.


Lester Burnham: This isn't life, it's just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts.


Lester Burnham: 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.


[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?


Jane Burnham: Are you scared?

Ricky Fitts: I don't get scared.

Jane Burnham: My parents will try to find me.

Ricky Fitts: Mine won't.


Angela Hayes: It's that psycho next door. Jane, what if he worships you? What if he's got a shrine with pictures of you surrounded by dead people's heads and stuff?


Ricky Fitts: I was filming this dead bird.

Angela Hayes: Why?

Ricky Fitts: Because it's beautiful.


Lester Burnham: How's Jane?

Angela Hayes: What do you mean?

Lester Burnham: 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 ever tell me about it.

Angela Hayes: She's... she's really happy. She thinks she's in love.

Lester Burnham: Good for her.

Angela Hayes: How are you?

Lester Burnham: God, it's been a long time since anybody asked me that... I'm great.

Angela Hayes: I've gotta go to the bathroom.

Lester Burnham: I'm great.


[at the dinner table]

Carolyn Burnham: Your father and I were just discussing his day at work. Why don't you tell our daughter about it, honey?

Lester Burnham: Janie, today I quit my job. And then I told my boss to go fuck himself, and then I blackmailed him for almost sixty thousand dollars. Pass the asparagus.

Carolyn Burnham: Your father seems to think this type of behavior is something to be proud of.

Lester Burnham: 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 Burnham: 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 Burnham: Lose it? I didn't lose it. It's not like, "Whoops! Where'd my job go?" I QUIT. Someone pass me the asparagus.


Lester Burnham: You don't think it's kinda weird & fascist?

Carolyn Burnham: Possibly, but you don't want to be unemployed.

Lester Burnham: Oh well, all right, let's all sell our souls and work for Satan because it's more convenient that way.


Mr. Smiley's Manager: I don't think you'd fit in here.

Lester Burnham: I have fast food experience.

Mr. Smiley's Manager: Yeah, like twenty years ago!

Lester Burnham: 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 Burnham: Well, I see you're smoking pot now. I think using psychotropic drugs is a very positive example to set for our daughter.

Lester Burnham: You're one to talk, you bloodless, money-grubbing freak.


Carolyn Burnham: What the hell do you think you're doing?

Lester Burnham: Uh oh! Mom's mad! Bench presses. I'm going to wail on my pecs and then do my back.


[last lines]

Lester Burnham: [narrating] 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... And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined my street... 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.


Jane Burnham: [turning the camera on Ricky] Don't you feel naked?

Ricky Fitts: I am naked.


Lester Burnham: [narrating] That's my wife, Carolyn. See the way the handle on her pruning shears matches her gardening clogs? That's not an accident.


Colonel Frank Fitts: You need structure... and discipline.

Ricky Fitts: Thank you for trying to teach me, sir. Don't give up on me, Dad.


Carolyn Burnham: My company sells an image. It's part of my job to live that image.


Lester Burnham: [narrating] It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.


Carolyn Burnham: What are you doing?

Lester Burnham: Nothing.

Carolyn Burnham: You were masturbating!

Lester Burnham: I was not.

Carolyn Burnham: Yes you were!

Lester Burnham: 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!


Lester Burnham: When I was your age, I flipped burgers all summer just to be able to buy an eight-track.

Ricky Fitts: That sucks.

Lester Burnham: No, actually it was great. All I did was party and get laid. I had my whole life ahead of me.


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


Carolyn Burnham: I refuse to be a victim!


Jane Burnham: Somebody should just put him out of his misery.

Ricky Fitts: Do you want me to kill him?

Jane Burnham: Yeah, would you?


Colonel Frank Fitts: Where's your wife?

Lester Burnham: Uh, I dunno. Probably out fucking that dorky, prince-of-real-estate asshole. And you know what? I don't care.

Colonel Frank Fitts: Your wife is with another man and you don't care?

Lester Burnham: Nope. Our marriage is just for show. A commercial for how normal we are when we're anything but.


Lester Burnham: So, Janie, how was school?

Jane Burnham: It was okay.

Lester Burnham: Just okay?

Jane Burnham: No, Dad, it was spectacular.


[after meeting Ricky Fitts for the first time]

Angela Hayes: What a freak! And why does he dress like a bible salesman?

Jane Burnham: He's just so confident, it can't be real.

Angela Hayes: I don't believe him. I mean, he didn't even like, look at me once!


Angela Hayes: I don't think that there's anything worse than being ordinary.


Angela Hayes: So, you're fucking psycho-boy on a regular basis now? Tell me, has he got a big dick?

Jane Burnham: It's not like that.

Angela Hayes: What, hasn't he got one?

Jane Burnham: I'm not going to talk about his dick with you, OK?


Carolyn Burnham: Don't you mess with me, mister, or I'll divorce you so fast it'll make your head spin!

Lester Burnham: 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!


Angela Hayes: I'm serious. He just pulled down his pants and yanked it out. You know, like, "Say hello to Mr. Happy."

Playground Girl #1: Gross.

Angela Hayes: It wasn't gross. It was kinda cool.

Playground Girl #1: So did you do it with him?

Angela Hayes: Of course I did. He's like a really well known photographer. He shoots for "Elle" on like a regular basis. It would have been so majorly stupid of me to turn him down.

Playground Girl #2: You are a total prostitute.

Angela Hayes: Hey! That's how things really are. You just don't know 'cause you're this pampered little suburban chick.

Playground Girl #2: So are you. You've only been in "Seventeen" once and you looked fat! So stop acting like you're goddamn Christy Turlington!

Angela Hayes: Cunt! I am so sick of people taking their insecurities out on me.


Jane Burnham: I don't think we can be friends anymore.

Angela Hayes: You're way too uptight about sex.

Jane Burnham: Just don't fuck my dad, all right? Please?

Angela Hayes: Why not?


Ricky Fitts: She's not your friend. She's just someone you use to feel better about yourself.


Angela Hayes: Jane, he's a freak!

Jane Burnham: 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 Hayes: You total slut, you have a crush on him. You're defending him, you love him, you wanna have, like, ten thousand of his babies.


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 am dead already.


Lester Burnham: [narrating] 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.


Jane Burnham: Could he be any more pathetic?

Angela Hayes: I think it's sweet. And I think he and your mother have not had sex in a long time.


[Seeing Lester and the two Jim's jogging]

Colonel Frank Fitts: What is this? The fucking Gay Pride parade?


Lester Burnham: [narrating] 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.


Jim Olmeyer: Hello! We're your neighbors from two doors down and we just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood!

[hands the Colonel a gift basket]

Jim "JB" Berkely: Everything's from our garden, except for the pasta.

Jim Olmeyer: Yes, it's from Fizzoli's, it's amazingly fresh, you just pop it in water and it's done! I'm Jim Olmeyer.

[shakes the Colonel's hand]

Jim Olmeyer: And this is my partner Jim.

Jim "JB" Berkely: Jim Berkely, but people call me J.B.

[extends his hand to shake]

Colonel Frank Fitts: Ah, let's just cut to it, what are you selling?

Jim Olmeyer: Nothing, we just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood.

Colonel Frank Fitts: You said you're partners, so, uh what's your business?

Jim Olmeyer: Well, he's a tax attorney.

Jim "JB" Berkely: And he's an anesthesiologist.


Ricky Fitts: I didn't mean to scare you. I just think you're interesting.


Lester Burnham: Man, oh man. Man, oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man.

[last words, while looking at a picture of his family]


Ricky Fitts: It's like God's looking right at you, just for a second, and if you're careful... you can look right back.

Jane Burnham: And what do you see?

Ricky Fitts: Beauty.


Carolyn Burnham: I will sell this house today, I will sell this house today.


Carolyn Burnham: Oh, I see. You think you're the only one who's sexually frustrated here?

Lester Burnham: I'm not? Well, then, come on, baby, I'm ready!


Lester: [giggling] Oh, I'm in trouble!


Ricky Fitts: [after Ricky's dad beats him up] Mom, I'm leaving.

Barbara Fitts: Okay. Wear a raincoat.


Jane Burnham: [seeing Lester having just been shot] Oh, my God...

Ricky Fitts: [looks at Lester, curiously intrigued] Wow...


Barbara Fitts: I'm so sorry for how the house looks.


Lester Burnham: [talking to Carolyn about Jane] Oh, what? You're mother of the year? You treat her like an employee.


Angela Hayes: I was hoping you'd give me a bath. I'm very, very dirty.


Ricky Fitts: I can't believe you don't know how beautiful you are.


Lester Burnham: You better watch yourself, Jane, or you're going to turn into a real BITCH, just like your MOTHER!


[Lester and Carolyn are driving to the basketball game to watch Jane's dance team gig]

Lester Burnham: Well what makes you so sure she wants us to be there? Did she ask us to come?

Carolyn Burnham: Of course not. She doesn't want us to know how important this is to her. But she's been practicing her steps for weeks.

Lester Burnham: Well, I'll bet money she's going to resent it, and I'm missing the James Bond marathon on TNT.

Carolyn Burnham: Lester, this is important. I'm sensing a real distance growing between you and Jane.

Lester Burnham: "Growing?" She hates me.

Carolyn Burnham: She's just willful.

Lester Burnham: She hates you too.


Lester Burnham: Well you know what? I've changed! And the new me whacks off when he feels horny!


Sale House Woman #4: The ad said this pool was lagoon-like. There's nothing lagoon-like about it, except for the bugs. There aren't even any plants out here!

Carolyn Burnham: What do you call this? Is this not a plant? If you have a problem with my plants, I can always call my landscape architect! Solved!


Brad Dupree: I'm sure you can understand the need to cut corners around here.

Lester Burnham: Sure. Times are tight, and you need to free up cash. Gotta spend money to make money.

Brad Dupree: Exactly.

Lester Burnham: Like when our editorial director used the company MasterCard to pay for a hooker, and then she used the card number to stay at the St. Regis for, what was it, three months?

Brad Dupree: That's unsubstantiated gossip.

Lester Burnham: That's fifty thousand dollars. That's somebody's salary. Somebody who's probably gonna get fired because Craig has to pay women to fuck him!

Brad Dupree: Jesus. Calm down. Nobody's getting fired yet. That's why we're having everyone write a job description, mapping out in detail how they contribute. That way, management can assess who's valuable and who's...

Lester Burnham: Expendable.

Brad Dupree: It's just business.


Angela Hayes: Everything that's meant to happen does.


Buddy Kane: [Carolyn is having sex in a motel room with the Real Estate King] Do you like getting nailed by the King?

Carolyn Burnham: Yes, your majesty!


Carolyn Burnham: That was exactly what I needed. The royal treatment, so to speak.


Mr. Smiley's Counter Girl: Whoa! You are so busted.

Carolyn Burnham: You know, this really doesn't concern you.

Lester Burnham: Well, actually, Janine is Senior Drive-thru Manager so you are on her turf.


[Lester eavesdrops on Jane and Angela through Jane's bedroom door]

Jane Burnham: Sorry about my dad.

Angela Hayes: Don't be. I think it's funny.

Jane Burnham: Yeah, to you, he's just another guy who wants to jump your bones. But to me, he's just...too embarrassing to live.

Angela Hayes: Your mom's the one who's embarrassing. What a phony. But, your dad's actually kind of cute.

Jane Burnham: Shut up.

Angela Hayes: He is. If he just worked out a little, he'd be hot.

Jane Burnham: Shut up!

Angela Hayes: Oh, come on. Like you've never sneaked a peek at him in his underwear? I bet he's got a big dick.

Jane Burnham: You are so grossing me out right now.

Angela Hayes: If he built up his chest and arms, I would totally fuck him.

Jane Burnham: [covers her ears and sings 'la la la' over and over again]

Angela Hayes: I would! I would suck your dad's big fat dick, and then I'd fuck him until his eyes rolled back in his head!

Source: taken on Dec. 24 2008

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