American Beauty is a 1999 American black comedy-drama film written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes in his directorial debut. Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, an advertising executive who has a midlife crisis when he becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter's best friend, played by Mena Suvari. Annette Bening stars as Lester's materialistic wife, Carolyn, and Thora Birch plays their insecure daughter, Jane. Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper, and Allison Janney co-star. Academics have described the film as satirizing how beauty and personal satisfaction are perceived by the American middle class; further analysis has focused on the film's explorations of romantic and paternal love, sexuality, materialism, self-liberation, and redemption.
Middle-aged executive Lester Burnham hates his job and is unhappily married to neurotic and ambitious real estate broker Carolyn. Their 16-year-old daughter, Jane, abhors her parents and has low self-esteem. Retired US Marine colonel Frank Fitts, his near-catatonic wife Barbara, and their teenage son Ricky move in next door. Ricky documents the world around him with a camcorder, collecting recordings on videotape in his bedroom, while using his part-time catering jobs as a front for dealing marijuana. Strict disciplinarian and abusive Frank has previously had Ricky committed to a psychiatric hospital and sent to a military academy. Gay couple Jim Olmeyer and Jim Berkley, also neighbors to the Burnhams, welcome the Fitts family. Frank later reveals his homophobia when angrily discussing the encounter with Ricky.