American Beauty (1999)

 ●  English ● Running Time: TBA

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Dark and disturbing, this contemporary satire insightfully depicts the fluctuating fortunes in the life of Lester Burnham, an advertising executive working for a magazine. Seemingly, Lester leads a perfect life with his successful wife, Carolyn, and their beautiful teenage daughter, Jane. However, the reality is that Lester despises his job, his ambitious wife is having an affair, and their daughter hates them with a vengeance. Lester finds his life slipping deeper and deeper into depression. He finally snaps when he becomes infatuated with one of his daughter's friends, Angela Hayes, and starts having sexual fantasies about her, during which red rose petals are a recurring motif. Angela seems to be a sexually promiscuous teenager and leads Lester on. While Lester's neighbours and family members also go through their own struggles, this thought-provoking tale traces his experiences and emotions as his mid-life crisis sends him careening deeper and deeper into a dark abyss from which there may be no way out.
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Annette Bening, Kevin Spacey, Thora Birch

Crew: Sam Mendes (Director), Conrad L Hall (Director of Photography), Thomas Newman (Music Director)

Genres: Drama, Romance

Release Dates: 01 Oct 1999 (India)

Tagline: ... look closer

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Did you know? Kevin Spacey improvised everything he does in the car while his character is stoned and singing to "American Woman". Read More
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as Carolyn Burnham
as Lester Burnham
as Jane Burnham
as Barbara Fitts
Supporting Actress
as Colonel Fitts
Supporting Actor
as Angela Hayes
as Buddy Kane
as Jim Berkley
as Jim Olmeyer
as Ricky Fitts


First Assistant Director
Second Assistant Director


Production Company




Screenplay Writer
Story Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography
Still Photographer
Key Grip


Music Director


Sound Re-recording Mixer
Sound Effects Editor
Boom Operator


Art Director
Production Designer
Set Decorator
Prop Master
Set Dresser
Storyboard Artist


Casting Director
Casting Assistant

Costume and Wardrobe

Costume Designer


Assistant Editor

Makeup and Hair

Makeup Artist
Hair Stylist

Special Effects

Special Effects Coordinator

Visual Effects

Visual Effects Producer
Film Type:
Feature Film
Colour Info:
Sound Mix:
Dolby Digital
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1
... look closer
Crew/Equipment Visible
When Lester is driving in his car after leaving his advertising job, the trailing motorcycle cop escorting the vehicle (Toyota Camry) being towed on the process trailer behind the camera car, can be seen going in and out of the shot in the rear window.

Crew/Equipment Visible
After he is beaten by his father for looking at the Nazi plate, Ricky Fitts looks in the mirror to examine his wounds. The edge of the camera is visible in the mirror for about a second, then the frame is rearranged so it is no longer visible.

Crew/Equipment Visible
At the beginning of the movie, when Lester is in the shower, you can see a reflection/silhouette on the shower door.

Crew/Equipment Visible
Toward the end of Ricky's and Jane's first kiss in his bedroom the moving shadow of a crew member or piece of equipment can be seen at the bottom of window and blinds projected on the wall (to the left of the black floor lamp, behind Ricky, far left edge of frame}.

Errors in Geography
When Lester is singing "American Woman" in his car, buildings from Burbank, California (including the building bearing "The Disney Channel" logo at the time) are clearly seen in the reflection of his windshield. The telephone area codes and newspapers set the film in the Chicago area.

Factual Mistake
The dancing 'Spartanettes' have a capital 'S' on their uniforms when it should be 'R' for 'Rockwell'; or 'RHS' for 'Rockwell High School'. Lettering in a high school sport the letter on the letter jacket is always the first letter of the name of the high school, not the first letter of the name of the mascot. The same is true of uniforms.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When Ricky begins recording Jane, the camera makes the sound of ejecting the tape.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When Carolyn slaps Jane in the face, Carolyn can be seen yelling at Jane, from behind, even though the soundtrack is silent.

When Colonel Fitts breaks into Ricky's room in a rage and punches him, the blood is already on Ricky's nose before the fist makes contact.

When Lester hears that Angela is staying over for the night, he spills beer on the sink. In the next shot the beer is gone and the sink is clean. Also, the beer bottle is held differently, showing the label from another side.

When Ricky gets the frozen urine sample out of the freezer, it's obviously half a cup. When he is ready to hand it over to his father (outside at the car), the cup is completely filled.

The white decorative pillow Lester picks up and throws off Carolyn's precious blue and white striped silk sofa bounces off the floor and lands in the armchair behind him, returns to it's original position against the arm of the sofa in the next shot and then reappears in the armchair when the camera cuts back to Lester..

In the bedroom scene, the girl is holding a clear cup full of beer. The camera goes off her and when it comes back she is holding a blue cup. The camera goes back off her and when it comes back on her, the cup is clear again.
The title of this film refers to a breed of roses that while pretty and appealing in appearance, is often prone to rot underneath at the roots and branches of the plant. Thus, the tagline "...look closer" tells the viewer that when they look beyond the "perfect suburban life" they will find something rancid at the root.

Since Thora Birch was barely 17 at the time she made the film, and thus classified as a minor in the United States, her parents had to approve her brief topless scene in the movie and they and child labor representatives were on the set for the shooting of it.

The shot where Annette Bening screams after her failure to sell the house was done in one take.

Wes Bentley was the first actor to read for the part of Ricky, and was asked to do the scene where he describes his reaction to the plastic bag; the casting director felt that although she had read that scene numerous times, his reading was the first time she felt she understood the meaning of it.

According to his Oscar speech, Alan Ball was sitting at the World Trade Center plaza when he saw a paper bag floating in the wind and was inspired by it to write the film, which was originally conceived as a stage play.

Kevin Spacey improvised everything he does in the car while his character is stoned and singing to "American Woman".

Sam Mendes designed the two girls' look to change over the course of the film, with Thora Birch gradually using less makeup and Mena Suvari gradually using more, to emphasize his view of their shifting perceptions of themselves.

When Lester throws the asparagus, he was supposed to throw it on the floor. The reactions of Annette Bening and Thora Birch are genuine.

The tagline and important theme of the film - "...look closer" - can be seen in Lester's cubicle at work. It was simply something a set dresser had put in, and director Sam Mendes noticed it while editing and suggested it be used for the poster.

The iconic body and hand in the poster for the movie belong to actress/model Chloe Hunter, not Mena Suvari.
Movie Connection(s):
Referenced in: Citizen Kane (English)