American Beauty is a 1999 drama film set in modern American suburbia. Starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, it was the feature film debut for writer Alan Ball and director Sam Mendes. All four were nominated for Academy Awards, and the film won a total of five including Best Picture.
The movie opens with scratchy camcorder footage of a teen girl reclining on a bed. She complains about her father, who she says is boring, socially awkward, and a general embarrassment. A young man off-camera, presumably the operator of the camcorder, asks in a somewhat offhand way, "You want me to kill him for you?" She thinks for a moment and then says with a smirk, "Yeah. Would you?"
The movie begins again with Lester Burnham (Spacey), a 42-year-old father and advertising executive. Lester begins a self-narration, although Lester as the audience sees him on screen is not actually talking. He says to the audience, "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." It soon becomes clear why: His family life is messy. His wife Carolyn (Bening) is an ambitious, pretentious realtor with little on her mind but success: "My company sells an image. It's part of my job to live that image." His 16-year-old daughter Jane (Birch), who was seen earlier in the camcorder footage at the beginning of the movie, is considering a breast reduction. "Janie's a pretty typical teenager," Lester says, "Angry, insecure, confused. I wish I could tell her that's all going to pass, but I don't want to lie to her." Jane and Lester haven't spoken to each other for months. Lester himself is a self-described loser: boring, faceless and easy to forget. "I have lost something. ... But you know what? It's never too late to get it back."