American Beauty

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American Beauty is a 1999 film about a husband and father who is going through a mid-life crisis, and how his newfound quest for love, freedom and self-liberation impacts on his family and neighbours.

Directed by Sam Mendes. Written by Alan Ball

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.
  • Look at me, jerking off in the shower — this will be the high point of my day. It's all downhill from here.
  • That's my wife, Carolyn. See the way the handle on her pruning shears matches her gardening clogs? That's not an accident.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You're one to talk, you bloodless, money-grubbing freak.
  • 1970 Pontiac Firebird. The car I've always wanted and now I have it. I rule!
  • This isn't life, it's just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts.
  • I'm just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose.
  • I want to look good naked!
  • 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.
  • I didn't LOSE it. It's not like 'Whoops! Where did my job go?' I quit.
  • It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.
  • I feel like I've been in a coma for the past twenty years. And I'm just now waking up.
  • Our marriage is just for show. A commercial for how normal we are when we're anything but.
  • Well the new me whacks off when he feels horny.
  • 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.
  • Oh, it's okay. I wouldn't remember me either.
  • I'm looking for the least possible amount of responsibility.
  • Smile! You're at Mr. Smiley's.
  • We've met before, but something tells me you're going to remember me this time.
  • [To Carolyn] You don't get to tell me what to do ever again.
  • Man, oh man. Man, oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man. * [Last Words]
  • We have a very healthy relationship.
  • [To Ricky Fitts] I think you just became my personal hero!
  • 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 our 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 really 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.
  • [After Angela touches his muscles] You like muscles.

Carolyn Burnham

  • [To Jane] Honey, I'm so proud of you. I watched you very closely, and you didn't screw up once!
  • You cannot count on anyone except yourself.
  • 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!
  • I will sell this house today, I will sell this house today...
  • This is not just a couch. This is a $4000 sofa upholstered in Italian silk!
  • [To Lester] Honey, don't be weird!
  • I see you're smoking pot now! I'm so glad. I think using illegal psychotropic substances is a very positive example to set for our daughter.
  • There happens to be a lot about me that you don't know, Mr. Smarty Man. There's plenty of joy in my life.
  • [to Buddy King] Fuck me, your majesty!
  • I refuse to be a victim!

Jane Burnham

  • I need a father who's a role model, not some horny geek-boy who's gonna spray his shorts every time I bring a girlfriend home from school.
  • I know you think my dad's harmless, but you're wrong.
  • [Answering Ricky's question if she wants him to kill Lester] Yeah. Would you?
  • Well...now I too need structure. And fucking discipline!
  • Look mom, I really don't feel like having a Kodak moment here, okay?
  • Well then, I guess I'm not a very nice girl then, am I?
  • [To Lester] What do you expect? You can't just suddenly become my best friend because you've had a bad day! I mean, come on...you've barely spoken to me for months.
  • Dad! You stare at her all the time! Like you're drunk! It's disgusting!
  • It would be nice if I was nearly as important to him as she is...
  • Mom, do we ALWAYS have to listen to this elavator music?
  • 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.

Ricky Fitts

  • Welcome to America's weirdest home videos.
  • I didn't mean to scare you. I just think you're interesting.
  • I'm not obsessing. I'm just curious.
  • 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 realized 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.
  • My dad thinks I paid for all this with catering jobs. Never underestimate the power of denial.
  • [To Angela on Jane] She's not your friend. She's just someone you use to feel good about yourself.
  • Yes you are. And you're boring. And totally ordinary...and you know it.
  • [To Frank] What a sad old man you are.
  • [To Barbara] Mom...I wish things could have been better for you. Take care of Dad.
  • This is all I EVER smoke.
  • I quit. So you don't have to pay me. Now leave me alone.
  • [To Frank, with blood in his mouth] No sir, I won't fight you!

Angela Hayes

  • [To Jane on Ricky] I don't believe him. I mean, he didn't even like, look at me once!
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • I don't think that there's anything worse than being ordinary.
  • 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.
  • [During one of Lester's fantasies] I was hoping you'd give me a bath. I'm very, very dirty.
  • I am so sick of people taking their insecurities out on me.
  • [To Lester after admitting her virginity] I still want to do it! I just...thought you should know in case you wondered why I wasn't...you know...better.

Buddy King

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

Dialogue

Brad Dupree: Hey Les, you got a minute?
Lester: For you Brad? I've got five!
...
Ricky: Do you party?
Lester: Excuse me?
Ricky: Do you get high?

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: 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.
...
Lester: Well what do you say I throw in a little sexual harassment charge to boot.
Brad Dupree: Against who?
Lester: 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: Nope, I'm just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose.

Carolyn: What are you doing?
Lester: Nothing.
Carolyn: You were masturbating!
Lester: I was not.
Carolyn: Yes you were!
Lester: 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!
Carolyn: Thats disgusting.
Lester: Well forgive me, but some of us still have blood pumping through our veins.
Carolyn: So do I!
Lester: Really? Well I'm the only one who seems to be doing anything about it.
Carolyn: [Gets out of bed and turns on the light] Lester, I refuse to live like this; This is not a marriage.
Lester: This hasn't been a marriage for years, but you were happy as long as I kept my mouth shut. Well tell you what, I've changed, and the new me whacks off when he feels horny, because you're obviously not gonna help me out in that department.
Carolyn: Oh, I see. You think you're the only one who's sexually frustrated here?
Lester: I'm not? Well then come on, baby, I'm ready!
Carolyn: Don't you mess with me, mister, or I'll divorce you so fast it'll make your head spin!
Lester: 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!

Carolyn: [at the dinner table] Your father and I were just discussing his day at work. Why don't you tell our daughter about it, honey?
Lester: 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: Your father seems to think this type of behavior is something to be proud of.
Lester: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: [throws the asparagus plate at the wall] Don't interrupt me, honey!
Lester: [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] I'm tired of this Lawrence Welk shit!

Carolyn: Are you trying to look unattractive?
Jane: Yes.
Carolyn: Well, congratulations. You've succeeded admirably.

Ricky: It's like God's looking right at you, just for a second, and if you're careful you can look right back.
Jane: And what do you see?
Ricky: Beauty.

Lester: You don't think it's kinda weird & fascist?
Carolyn: Possibly, but you don't want to be unemployed.
Lester: Oh well, alright, 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: I have fast food experience.
Mr. Smiley's Manager: Yeah, like twenty years ago!
Lester: 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.

Jane: [On Lester] Could he be any more pathetic?
Angela: I think it's sweet. And I think he and your mother have not had sex in a long time.

Ricky: Mom, I don't eat bacon.
Barbara: I'm sorry, I must have forgotten...

Angela: 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: It wasn't gross. It was kinda cool.
Playground Girl #1: So did you do it with him?
Angela: 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: 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!
[The two girls walk away]
Angela: Cunt! I am so sick of people taking their insecurities out on me.

Angela: Yeah? Well at least I'm not ugly!
Ricky: Yes you are. And you're boring. And totally ordinary...and you know it.

Jane: [Referring to Lester] He has this crush on my friend Angela and it's disgusting.
Ricky: You'd rather he had the crush on you?
Jane: No! But it would be nice if I was anywhere near as important to him as she is...

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

Carolyn: Well, I see you're smoking pot now. I think using psychotropic drugs is a very positive example to set for our daughter.
Lester: You're one to talk, you bloodless, money-grabbing freak.

Lester: When I was your age, I flipped burgers all summer just to be able to buy an eight-track.
Ricky: That sucks.
Lester: No, actually it was great. All I did was party and get laid. I had my whole life ahead of me.

Colonel Frank Fitts: Don't placate me like I'm your mother, boy.
Ricky: 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.

Lester: So Janie, how was school?
Jane: It was okay.
Lester: Just okay?
Jane: [sarcastically] No dad, it was spectacular.

Ricky: I was filming this dead bird.
Angela: Why?
Ricky: Because it's beautiful.

Angela: So, you're fucking psycho-boy on a regular basis now? Tell me, has he got a big dick?
Jane: It's not like that.
Angela: What, hasn't he got one?
Jane: I'm not going to talk about his dick with you, OK?

Jane: I don't think we can be friends anymore.
Angela: You're way too uptight about sex.
Jane: Just don't fuck my dad, all right? Please?
Angela: Why not?

Angela: [referring to Ricky] Jane, he's a freak!
Jane: 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!

Jane: [referring to Lester] Somebody should just put him out of his misery.
Ricky: Do you want me to kill him?
Jane: Yeah, would you?

Ricky: You know, that's not a very nice thing to do. Hiring somone to kill your dad.
Jane: Well then I guess I'm not a very nice girl then, am I?

Ricky: You're right, I suck dick for money.
Colonel Frank Fitts: Boy...
Ricky Fitts: Two thousand dollars, I'm that good.
Colonel Frank Fitts: Get out.
Ricky: And you should see me fuck. I'm the best piece of ass in three states.
[Colonel Fitts threatens to hit Ricky]
Colonel Frank Fitts: Get out! I don't ever want to see you again.
Ricky: What a sad old man you are.

Colonel Frank Fitts: Where's your wife?
Lester: 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: Nope. Our marriage is just for show. A commercial for how normal we are when we're anything but.

Angela: What do you want?
Lester: Are you kidding? I want you.

Lester: How's Jane?
Angela: What do you mean?
Lester: 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: She's... she's really happy. She thinks she's in love.
Lester: Good for her.
Angela: How are you?
Lester: God, it's been a long time since anybody asked me that... I'm great.
Angela: I've gotta go to the bathroom.
Lester: I'm great.

Cast

External links

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