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Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, a man who is a fed up with his life. He's tired of his job, the romance has long since gone out of his marriage, and his daughter Jane (Thora Birch) wants nothing to do with either of her parents.
And to complicate matters, Lester's wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) is having an affair with a rival real estate executive. In a comical scene, she and her new boyfriend are caught kissing when they pull up to a fast food restaurant window, not knowing that Lester has recently taken a job there (only after quitting his old job and blackmailing his boss).
Meanwhile, their next door neighbor, Ricky (Wes Bentley), a teenage boy who spent some time on the funny farm, films the Burnham family through their windows - often catching them in some strange situations (such as when Lester starts lifting weights naked in front of a window). He also gets a shot of Jane doing an impromptu striptease for him in front of her window.
This film is best when it doesn't get into deep philosophy. Some scenes are ridiculous in their far out, dreamy nature. For instance, in one scene, Ricky shows Jane a video of a bag floating in the wind with some leaves. Then he tells her its the most beautiful thing he's ever seen, and launches into a speech to the effect that "there's just so much beauty in the world, sometimes I feel like I just can't take it". At this point, you get the idea that Ricky has smoked a few too many joints (incidentally, he sells pot to Lester). You also get the idea that the person who wrote this script was a little too doped up as well.
Although American Beauty is intriguing and often laughable, I appreciate that the ending wasn't one of those stereotypical, happy Hollywood endings, although there remained a few loose ends - like what happened to all the characters beside Lester. (The end, which I won't tell this time, makes it pretty clear what happens to him.) There is also some mystery surrounding the end, which involves a murder - it's very hard to figure out who the killer is before this fact is revealed. It seems that all the characters are looney-toons who could easily go mental and murder someone.)
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